Behind the Wheel with Phil Lebeau

Toyota CEO Charts Rebound After Recalls

Today in Las Vegas, Toyota CEO Akio Toyoda is meeting with Toyota dealers and outlining what he hopes will be a rebound for the embattled automaker. For the last year and a half, Toyota has stumbled badly. Some of it was its own fault.

Some of it was due to Mother Nature. Either way, Toyota has found itself playing defense and scrambling during the last two years. Now, with Japan's auto industry rebounding and auto sales improving in the U.S., Akio Toyoda is charting a rebound.

Toyota car grille
Getty Images

Actually, the rebound at Toyota started shortly after several massive recalls in late 2009 and early 2010. The automaker made improving quality and putting the brakes on global expansion a priority.

Since then, the company has instituted a number of changes to decentralize the decision-making process and improve quality of its vehicles.

While it's too soon to say those moves have completely fixed Toyota's problems, there are some early indications Toyota is improving. The most obvious being the latest report on the initial quality of new vehicles by J.D. Power and Associates. In this survey, the Lexus and Toyota brands both staged big improvements.

Meanwhile, Toyota has weathered the financial/manufacturing storm that followed Japan's devastating earthquake and tsunami in March. After shutting down its Japanese plants for much of April and curtailing its production in the U.S. and other overseas markets, Toyota is getting back up to speed faster than expected. In fact, many analysts are now predicting Toyota will not lose a sizeable amount of market share here in the U.S.

There are two reasons Akio Toyoda is optimistic about the future of his company. First, there is a fresh infusion of new and redesigned models on the way. From the refreshed Camry to the expanded line of Prius models, Toyota is approaching a much needed boost in the showroom.

Second, Toyota's customer base has, for the most part, remained patient and loyal. Yes, Toyota lost many buyers due to the recalls, but its long running track record of quality and the strength of its dealer network has many Toyota owners waiting to buy a new model.

Akio Toyoda knows he still has a long a way to go before Toyota can say it's overcome the worst two years ever. A strong yen, rising raw material costs and keeping up with the competition in a fast growing Chinese market are all challenges that will remain for some time. But for Akio Toyoda, there is finally a clearing on the horizon and reason for him to be optimistic when he talks with Toyota dealers in Vegas.


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