Malcolm Foster of the AP reports this morning:
"TOKYO - Toyota President Akio Toyoda faces increased pressure to win back consumer trust in his congressional testimony Wednesday after the company's U.S. sales chief failed to provide clear answers to the automaker's slew of safety problems.
Also Wednesday, Japan opened an investigation into unintended acceleration with Toyota and other vehicles in this nation.
The national Asahi newspaper said in an editorial that Toyoda's performance would be a "crucial test" for his company -- and perhaps for Japan's reputation among consumers globally.
The national Asahi newspaper said in an editorial that Toyoda's performance would be a "crucial test" for his company – and perhaps for Japan's reputation among consumers globally.
His testimony "not only determines Toyota's fate, but may affect all Japanese companies and consumer confidence in their products," it said. "President Toyoda has a heavy load on his shoulders."
Morning TV shows ran clips of a U.S. congressional panel grilling James Lentz, president of Toyota Motor Sales USA Inc., Tuesday in Washington-- while most Japanese were asleep."
The New York Times also runs a lengthy piece on Toyoda, who's often referred to as "the prince." The consensus among the industry experts that the NYT spoke to seems to be that Toyoda's appearance today is a crucial bit of political theater that could have huge implications for Toyoda's brand. Further recalls, one expert speculated, could lead to another decade of struggles for Toyota.
Toyoda may not be involved in the day-to-day operatons, the NYT writes, but remains an influential "shadow shogun" behind the scenes. It's likely that Toyoda will show more contrition for the massive recalls. Here's the NYT:
Until last week, Toyota officials had said it was not necessary for Mr. Toyoda to testify. But they were put on the spot when the oversight committee issued an invitation, making it difficult for Mr. Toyoda to refuse.
Shin Tanaka, an expert on crisis management issues, said it should not have taken Congressional hearings for Mr. Toyoda to appear before the American public. "Any crisis that involves safety is a matter for the C.E.O.," said Mr. Tanaka, president of Fleishman-Hilliard Japan, a global communications company. "Mr. Toyoda should have been on a plane straight away."