Akio Toyoda, the beleaguered fourth-generation head of Toyota, admitted that rapid expansion at the family company caused it to put growth ahead of safety and quality, resulting in the current recall crisis.
In a statement released today, Toyoda (pictured) said: "I fear the pace at which we have grown may have been too quick. I would like to point out here that Toyota's priority has traditionally been the following: first; safety, second; quality, and third; volume. These priorities became confused, and we were not able to stop, think, and make improvements as much as we were able to before.
"I regret that this has resulted in the safety issues described in the recalls we face today, and I am deeply sorry for any accidents that Toyota drivers have experienced," he continued.
He went on to explain that his family heritage at the company means the problems are not just business to him, but personal. "As you well know, I am the grandson of the founder, and all the Toyota vehicles bear my name. For me, when the cars are damaged, it is as though I am as well. I, more than anyone, wish for Toyota's cars to be safe, and for our customers to feel safe when they use our vehicles," he said.
The statement was prepared for Toyoda's appearance today at the US House of Representatives' Committee on Oversight and Government Reform.
Initially, Toyoda said he was not planning to appear personally in the US, leaving it instead to Toyota's president of sales in the US, James Lentz. However the oversight committee summoned Toyoda last week, meaning he had little choice but to attend. (Click here to read our coverage of the story)
Toyota will today testify against allegations that the problems associated with the millions of recalls Toyota has been forced to make "may have been the direct cause of serious injury and even death."
53-year-old Toyoda began as Toyota president in June 2009, but has received much criticism for his handling of the recall crisis as he remained largely silent on the matter until earlier this month.
Want to get the latest family business/family office news direct to your desktop? Click here to register to receive our weekly newsletter
Are you a member of a multigenerational family business or family office? Click here to subscribe to our magazines