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Have Toyota execs learned from the recall ... of 2006?

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Have Toyota execs learned from the recall ... of 2006?

Hans Greimel

Automotive News -- February 22, 2010 - 12:01 am ET

Akio Toyoda and Shinichi Sasaki hold a press conference, apologize for a rash of recalls and then explain how Toyota Motor Corp. will improve quality so it never happens again.

If you think this scene sounds familiar from last week, try four years ago.

History is repeating itself at Toyota, and it's not pretty -- especially since the same people are coming out to reassure the public about the same problems. Perhaps more lamentable is that, despite pledges to get quality right, the lapses have multiplied.

Back in 2006, Sasaki had just been appointed the carmaker's quality czar in the midst of a previous quality crisis triggered by a series of recalls worldwide. Toyoda was Sasaki's boss as executive vice president in charge of quality.

What ensued was a dress rehearsal for today's recall emergency.

Sasaki and Toyoda faced the public to apologize and announce that the company would improve its quality and reliability by reorganizing, reviewing its quality processes and urging customers to report problems promptly to dealers.

Toyoda, grandson of the company's founder, said he was "ashamed" of the problems.

Fast forward to February 2010. The same duo is again in the spotlight and apologizing.

Shinichi Sasaki: Four years later, sorry once again

This month alone, Toyoda and Sasaki have shared the stage three times to explain what went wrong and how they will fix it. Only this time, Toyoda is president and Sasaki is executive vice president for quality. And today's recalls are counted in the millions, not hundreds of thousands.

Critics will no doubt surmise that the reforms they rolled out in the 2006 recall flap have lost traction. The questions are: What lessons have they learned, and what will be different this time?

As we saw four years ago and again see today, Toyoda and Sasaki can talk the talk.

But this time, they also need to walk the walk.

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