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Akio Makes His Case

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It's one question I hear time and again: Does Akio Toyoda get it?

Does he realize how bad this situation is for Toyota ?

I thought of that question as I sat down with him Wednesday night for an extended one on one interview. It was his first extended interview since the unintended acceleration crisis broke last fall. As we talked I kept asking myself, "Does he get it?" Yes, he says all the right things about being sorry for the deaths and acceleration crashes, but is he sincere?

From our conversation I do think Akio Toyoda understands the magnitude of the situation. He told me, "I really sincerely hope that we would like to regain the sense of trust and reliability that they felt once upon a time with us, back."

He's also talked of the people who have been in accidents or in cars that suddenly sped up. Mr. Toyoda said, "Since we have starting this recall process I did have a chance to talk to several of our customers. I told them I am so sorry to make you feel concerned about this. Would you possibly consider buying the next Toyota car? And some of them would say that since we are doing such a good job of fixing them they would definitely consider a Toyota vehicle."

Mr. Toyoda began his testimony on Capitol Hill by apologizing to the Saylor family that was involved in the deadly crash of a runaway Lexus last fall outside San Diego, California.

He offered another apology during our conversation saying, "I really would like to sincerely convey my condolences to the survivors of the Saylor family. I haven't had a chance to convey this personally this time but sometime in the future if the opportunity comes, I would love to do that."

It's not in the culture of Toyota to promote executives over the team. It's the reason the company is often viewed as detached.

Akio Toyoda knows this.

He knows his company has to re-connect with American car buyers.

Yes, he gets it.

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