Toyota's nightmare continued on Parliament Hill today.
Toyota Canada managing director Stephen Beatty appeared before the Standing Committee on Transport, Communities and Infrastructure as a follow-up to hearings in March.
Beatty brought along a veteran Toyota engineer, Minoru Tanaka, a body engineering expert. He came to talk in detail about gas pedals and how they work.
Beatty started the ball rolling with an array of motherhood statements about how Toyota takes care of its customers and so on. And it is true that Toyota Canada has moved very quickly to repair recalled vehicles. Toyota says 88 per cent of the vehicles recalled with problem pedals have been fixed.
Then Beatty reiterated that Toyota Canada had no reports of sticking gas pedals until last fall. Since then, millions of Toyotas have been recalled worldwide and the parent company has put in place a new quality and safety division headed by a chief safety officer.
Beatty and Tanaka are testifying about technical issues, though the politicians take these opportunities for grandstanding. What will surely NOT come out of the day on Parliament Hill is the sort of frank discussion about Toyota's overall problems president Akio Toyoda shared with Automotive News two weeks ago in Germany.
In it, Toyoda said the company's quality and financial woes date back to 2003. That's when Toyota set out to expand dramatically, with an eye to becoming the No. 1 auto maker in the world.
Toyoda, grandson of the company's founder, said, "In 2003, we surpassed the six million sales mark, and after that the rate of increase kept growing. We look at that as the turning point. When we hit the six million mark, we maybe couldn't apply the Toyota Way as thoroughly as we should have."
Toyota Motor stretched its resources too thin for the better part of the next decade. The engineers were hard-pressed to keep up with rapid growth and the result was predictable - quality problems.
Today, Toyota is making money, despite some 300 lawsuits in the United States and a couple more in Canada. Toyota has paid millions in fines to the U.S. Government, too.
In the future, Toyota will be far more careful about expanding into new markets and new segments. Growth is good, but out of control growth is potentially disastrous - in Toyota's case, some 8.5 million vehicles recalled globally in less than a year.
The car business works in five- to seven-year cycles, so expect Toyota Motor to be on the defensive for years to come. While it's true that long-time Toyota customers remain largely unfazed by the recall problem, skeptics and critics will keep throwing daggers and darts at the company.
"We've learned a lot from this situation," Toyoda told Automotive News. "And if we can apply those lessons one at a time, it won't be long until we're back where we were."
Say, five years.