Toyota president looks to future after three tumultuous years

December 07, 2012

By SATOSHI KUBO/ Staff Writer

Looking back on a turbulent three and a half years as Toyota Motor Corp. president, Akio Toyoda said he has spent a lot of time apologizing, but he also said he wants to thank the company's shareholders, business partners and customers for their support and kind understanding.

Since Toyoda took over as company president in June 2009, the automaker has been beset with problems. Already struggling with sales declines due to the global recession, Toyota then became besieged by massive recalls related to reports of instances of dangerous unintended acceleration, which resulted in an investigation by the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Eventually, Toyoda himself read a prepared statement to the U.S. Congress in Washington.

“I have learned that the role at the top is to make decisions and take responsibilities,” Toyoda said Dec. 6 in Tokyo during a meeting with former U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell. “In many cases, I make decisions on intuition, in three seconds.”

But he also emphasized his consideration for company shareholders and other affected parties when he makes a decision.

“When I make a decision on intuition, I also think of the people who might have trouble due to the decision,” Toyoda said.

The discussion with Powell about leadership in public service and the private sector was part of an event arranged by Salesforce.com Inc., a San Francisco-based firm that provides cloud computing services to businesses. Toyota formed a tie-up with the company last year. Salesforce.com Chairman and CEO Marc Benioff also participated in the discussion.

Powell told Toyoda not to dwell on past failures and maintain his forward thinking.

“In my case, ‘sha’ in ‘shacho’ (company president) stood for ‘sha’ in ‘shazai’ (apology), but I hope to turn it into ‘sha’ in ‘kansha’ (gratitude),” Toyoda said.

By SATOSHI KUBO/ Staff Writer
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From left: Salesforce.com CEO Marc Benioff, Akio Toyoda, Toyota Motor Corp. president, and former U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell speak in Tokyo on Dec. 6. (Satoshi Kubo)

From left: Salesforce.com CEO Marc Benioff, Akio Toyoda, Toyota Motor Corp. president, and former U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell speak in Tokyo on Dec. 6. (Satoshi Kubo)

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  • From left: Salesforce.com CEO Marc Benioff, Akio Toyoda, Toyota Motor Corp. president, and former U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell speak in Tokyo on Dec. 6. (Satoshi Kubo)

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