Toyota said Monday it is inviting four outside experts to help beef up quality controls at the recall-battered automaker under a program that began in March to review defect measures.
Toyota Motor Corp. said it was tackling a number of improvements, including analyzing each accident and consumer complaint more thoroughly and boosting communication with journalists and other outsiders to be better at ensuring quality.
Toyota, the world's top automaker, has seen its once sterling image for quality plunge since October after recalling more than 8.5 million vehicles around the world with defective gas pedals, faulty floor mats, software glitches and other problems.
Despite vowing to improve quality, the automaker has in some cases discouraged independent scrutiny. Electronic messages obtained by The Associated Press in the U.S. show Toyota was frustrated with Southern Illinois University Professor David Gilbert, whose research indicated that electronics might be to blame for unintended acceleration problems in Toyota cars.
The messages show Toyota not only tried to cast doubt on his findings but also made clear it was displeased. One Toyota employee questioned whether he should be employed by the university, which has long been a recipient of company donations.
In steps disclosed Monday as under way, Toyota said it is boosting collaboration between Toyota's quality-related divisions and its legal division, beefing up training among employees to get a better grasp of customers' views on vehicle troubles, and trying to obtain more input from third-party experts.
Toyota is adding four academic and consumer experts, who were recommended by the Union of Japanese Scientists and Engineers, which is not directly affiliated with Toyota. They are Hiroshi Osada, professor of management at the Tokyo Institute of Technology; Noriaki Kano, honorary professor at Tokyo University of Science; Yasuo Kusakabe, chairman of the Automobile Journalist Association of Japan and Yoshiko Miura, general manager at the Japan Consumer's Association.
"Especially pressing is the need for establishing guidelines to steer crisis-management activity by the president and other members of senior management," Toyota said. "Also pressing is the need for bridging the culture gap between Japan and other nations in public relations activities."