The ongoing product recall and quality perception crisis regarding Toyota Motor Corp. took on some positive movement in the past few days.  Last week Toyota announced chief quality officer executive appointments within each major geography. 

Steve St. Angelo, executive vice president of Toyota’s U.S. manufacturing operations in Erlanger, Ky., was named the company’s chief quality officer in North America. St. Angelo will represent North America on the corporate quality review committee that will meet regularly with Toyota President Akio Toyoda.  St. Angelo’s new team will bring together top U.S. executives at Toyota and come up with plans to boost quality assurance and customer research. Other geography teams will similarly focus on specific quality needs in the respective region.

The special corporate-wide committee on quality consisting of 70 members held its first meeting on Tuesday of this week.  Several different press reports indicate that the initial output of that meeting was to authorize the forming of dedicated technology offices within each major region.  Technology offices will be increased from current one to seven within North America.  New technology offices will also be established in Europe, China and other regions. Toyota noted that the quality committee will issue its first report in June and will meet regularly to exchange insight and tackle safety issues.

According to a New York Times Featured Business article, under this new quality management structure, each region’s chief quality officer will co-participate with Toyota headquarters in Japan on consensus-driven action plans to address quality issues, including the need for recalls. Toyota also plans to have third party experts evaluate measures to improve quality and review steps adopted by the special committee.  The next special committee meeting is planned for September.

Meanwhile, U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood announced two major investigations designed to answer questions surrounding the issue of unintended vehicle acceleration. The U.S. government is calling on scientists from NASA and the National Academy of Sciences to further investigate potential causes of SUA in Toyota vehicles.

Time and events will tell if these new geographic regional quality teams will really have the corporate power to take proactive action on any future quality issues involving Toyota vehicles, but for now, these organizational and other product actions are a step in the right direction.

Bob Ferrari