Toyota Motor Corp. Chairman Akio Toyoda on Tuesday apologized over a recent series of scandals involving its group companies, vowing to improve compliance across the member firms that he says "got their priorities wrong" as they grew.
"We deeply apologize for troubling and worrying customers with the series of scandals" that occurred at the truck subsidiary Hino Motors Ltd., the small-car unit Daihatsu Motor Co., and Toyota Industries Corp., Toyoda said at a press conference in Nagoya.
The data rigging that occurred at the three firms was "an extremely serious matter that betrayed customers' trust and shook the foundation of the vehicle certification system," he said.
Toyoda's rare appearance in front of the media came as concern grew over product quality at the world's biggest automaker group following the issues.
Toyota Industries said Monday it fabricated data on the torque output of diesel engines it makes and supplies to Toyota, resulting in a partial halt of shipments of its cars.
Daihatsu stopped all shipments at home and abroad last month due to safety test rigging. Hino admitted in March 2022 to submitting fraudulent emissions and fuel economy data to transport authorities.
Third-party panels investigating the incidents have suggested strong product demand from Toyota could have been a cause of the problems.
"Some of them might find it difficult to express their opinions freely to Toyota as in most cases Toyota makes the orders," Toyoda acknowledged.
The chairman, who served as Toyota president for 14 years until last year, said from now he will prioritize his oversight of the entire Toyota group, not just the automaker, and reform the group's awareness about compliance by increasing communication with each company.
Asked about the degree to which he is responsible for the failure to discover the cases of misconduct during his presidency, Toyoda defended his actions, saying he was "too busy with turning around the company" hit by the "Lehman shock" financial crisis in 2008 and a massive earthquake and tsunami that struck the country's northeast in 2011.
Toyoda said he hopes his actions can serve as a model for group companies that are dealing with crises, saying his experience in reforming the company after a massive 2009-2010 recall in the United States can be useful in pushing forward with reforms.
Toyoda said he is not aware of any other misconduct within the group.
Japan's transport ministry inspected a Toyota Industries factory in central Japan on Tuesday to establish the facts of the scandal.
Based on the results, the ministry is expected to determine the severity of administrative punishment it will impose on the company, such as an operation correction order and the revocation of certifications needed for mass production.
Toyota said Monday it will stop the shipment of 10 models sold globally after Toyota Industries announced the data fabrication on diesel engines. The affected vehicles include popular models such as the Land Cruiser 300 Series and the Hilux.
Toyota Industries doctored the volume of flow into the fuel injectors in engine output tests in a bid to make the engines' torque, or rotational force at the crankshaft, appear higher than it is, according to a report by a third-party panel.
The data rigging was also found in the testing for all medium to large-size industrial engines Toyota Industries currently produces, and it has stopped shipment of the affected products, the company said.
Toyota Motor Corp. was spun off from Toyota Industries in the late 1930s and the latter remains one of the largest shareholders in the automaker, holding an 8.82 percent stake as of the end of September 2023.