Toyota held its first meeting Tuesday for a special committee of quality experts set up to help salvage a reputation battered by massive recalls and reports of runaway vehicles.
The company appointed chief quality officers in key overseas regions -- including North America -- where the biggest problems have surfaced and promised to include outside experts in evaluating quality measures.
“I invite you to join me in working with our colleagues worldwide to regain consumer confidence,” Toyota Motor Corp. President Akio Toyoda said in kicking off the meeting of about 70 executives, workers and representatives from its global operations gathered at headquarters in central Japan.
“Let us pool our wisdom and work hand in hand toward achieving that goal. And let this gathering today be our first step,” he told the crowd.
Under an effort to beef up quality checks, Toyota said it will set up four additional facilities to train employees in quality controls -- in North America, China, Europe and Southeast Asia -- modeled after the training center it already has in Japan.
Toyota said it had also decided to have brake override -- a system that allows the brakes to work if they are pressed together with the accelerator -- in new models starting this year.
The special committee will also meet regularly to exchange insight and tackle safety issues constructively, according to Toyota.
Toyota has recalled more than 8 million vehicles around the world since October for defective gas pedals, faulty floor mats and braking software glitches. Most of them have been in the U.S., where Toyota sales fell 9 percent in February, according to Autodata Corp.
Toyota showed reporters its facilities at headquarters, which are designed to check on possible defects in vehicles and parts targeted in consumer complaints.
Among the tests were an X—ray machine that presented three—dimensional computer imagery, an area that simulated heavy rains with water squirting from 400 nozzles, and a room that got both freezing cold and steaming hot to check how vehicles react under extreme weather conditions.
The media tour was intended to illustrate the hard work at the automaker to ensure quality control and respond to driver complaints. Toyoda has acknowledged that the company may have failed to be as quick or responsive as consumers would have liked about defects, especially overseas.