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Toyota eyes more transparent disclosure

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Toyota eyes more transparent disclosure

Hans Greimel

Automotive News -- February 15, 2010 - 7:56 am ET

TOKYO -- Toyota Motor Corp., struggling to rein in a global quality crisis, is devising new guidelines for disclosing troubles with its cars to increase transparency and rebut critics who say the company is slow in reacting to problems or otherwise quick in hiding them.

The new level of disclosure would see Toyota revealing problems that it legally isn't obligated to report or problems that fall below the recall threshold.

It comes as the company seeks new ways to win back customer trust amid a spate of quality problems that has spurred the recall of more than 8.5 million vehicles since last October.

Toyota is still working out details of the new disclosure policy.

But a Toyota spokesman said the idea arose from the confusion caused by last week's recall of the Toyota Prius hybrid to fix a software glitch in its antilock braking system.

Toyota began receiving complaints late last year about the brakes in the Prius momentary slipping and conducted an on-the-fly software fix in new cars coming off the assembly line since late last month. But it didn't notify customers who bought the Prius prior to the fix.

That was because Toyota said the braking performance, even in cars with the older software, still fell within legal guidelines. After a public outcry, Toyota decided last week to recall cars already sold to retrofit them with the upgraded software as an added measure of confidence.

Separately, Toyota is still deciding when President Akio Toyoda will visit the United States. Japanese media have reported that early March is a possibility.

Toyoda, grandson of the company's founder, said last week he planned to travel to the United States to meet employees and dealers in the wake of the recall crisis.

The president is also coming under pressure to testify before Congressional hearings probing the automaker's safety recalls and complaints about unintended acceleration in its cars. Japanese media have reported Toyoda would agree to testify if formally asked to do so.

Update coming

Toyoda, meanwhile, will hold a briefing on Wednesday in Tokyo to update on the progress of the global recall efforts. Toyoda will attend the briefing at its head office in Tokyo along with Executive Vice President Shinichi Sasaki, who is in charge of quality issues.

Toyota said in an invitation to the press that the briefing would cover the progress of its recall of the third-generation Prius hybrid and "in its approach to quality," without elaborating.

Toyoda apologized Feb. 5 for the safety problems of its cars and said he would bring in outside experts to review its quality controls.

Read more: http://www.autonews.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20100215/OEM/100219902/1290#ixzz0feFru4HD

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