WHEN: TODAY, THURSDAY, FEBRUARY 25TH AT 6AM ET
WHERE: CNBC'S BUSINESS DAY PROGRAMMING
Following is the unofficial transcript of a CNBC interview with Akio Toyoda, President of Toyota. Excerpts of the interview will run throughout CNBC's Business Day programming today, Thursday, February 25th beginning with "Squawk Box"(6AM-9AM ET). The full interview will be available on CNBC.com.
LEBEAU: Let me begin first off, what did you think of the hearings today?
TOYODA: Honestly I feel a little tired right now and it was an opportunity to answer to the questions posed by the congressmen however I thought it was a great opportunity for me to communicate with people who use our vehicles through the camera in this country and throughout the rest of the world. And what I really tried to do very hard today is that we have been working in the country for 50 years and we really try to do it for the betterment of American people and we were working very very hard sincerely to that end and I tried to express that from the bottom of my heart I'm not so sure if that was conveyed, but I hope that I did a bit of that.
LEBEAU: Let me follow up on that, do you feel as though you have convinced the skeptics in congress or in washington that Toyota has fixed the problems behind these recalls?
TOYODA: I believe that I was able to tell everything that we know at this point in time. However when it comes to this unintended sudden acceleration, I believe there are basically four possible reasons behind them and one is related to the electronic throttle control system. and secondally it might relate to the structure of the vehicle. thirdly it might relate to the way in which people use the vehicle and fourthly it might relate to the parts and components. With regards to the electronic throttle control system, we are confident that there really is no problem in our design and this fail safe concept is well incorporated into it. However having said that I know there have been problems on the road and we are in the process of trying to find out what possibly could have contributed to cause these problems. And our engineers have been working very hard 24/7 even before I came here and yet we were not able to really pinpoint or to recreate or reproduce what may have happened on the roadways. So we wanted to say that our vehicles are safe. Now I am not so sure as to what extent they understood what I was trying to convey but at this point in time we would like to work with other people in a very open manner and really pursue and find out what was the cause or what is the cause of this issue and I have this renewed sense of willingness to really pursue this today.
LEBEAU: You mentioned the electronic throttle control. you have been unable, and I say you, Toyota, but the outside experts, the firms you have hired, your own engineers, you have been unable to find a definitive problem with the electronic throttle control. Yet at the same time if I am understanding what you just told me correctly, you acknowledged that there is the possiblility that there may be a problem in the electronics. Does it worry you that there seems to be a disconnect there? You can't find a problem yet there may be a problem?
TOYODA: Well it's not that I have any sense of skepticism that there may be possibly an issue, no that's not what I am saying at all. Given at the level of present day technology and we have tried everything we possibly could and I can state today that our vehicles are completely safe. Having said that there are many different ways in which vehicles are utilized, there are many different people who use vehicles in their own way and the duration of the usage of the vehicle may vary therefore when we combine these factors it is possible that certain phenomenon may present itself. What I am trying to say is that together with dealers we would like to continue our effort and try to listen to what the customers are telling us and try to, you know, move along with the changes and then further improve our vehicles.
LEBEAU: Much has been made over the last couple of days about outside firms that have testified on Capitol Hill that have said, we've looekd at the electronics and the electronics in Toyota vehicles, we can't pinpoint the exact problems but we dont' believe that they are failsafe as Toyota says they are. Will you incorporate that research? Will your engineers look at that research from outside firms, whether it's a professor at Southern Illinois University or Safety Research and Strategies? and have you already looked at that research?
TOYODA: By all means we would love to do that with our engineers, at the same place, we want to look at each others' methodology and so on and so forth. So we would like to look at how this professor has done his tests and we want to show how our engineers would test. But when you are just comparing the two and we are not trying to win one over the other because our purpose it really trying to find out how we can make our vehicle safer for our customers. So not perhaps just two parties but I would open it up to anybody and you know, try to find out what's going on. (BREAK) I just want to share with you my personal impression when I saw the video of that experiment done by that Sourthern Illinois Universitry professor, I am also a test driver, certified test driver, and when I saw the tachometer picked it up very quickly, that the speed of that surge of the techometer, really impressed upon me as if it was riding a sports car and that is not how in most normal cases the customers would use our vehicle. And then when I noticed the tachometer reached the peak I looked at the way the sceneries were going and I think it was actually going much faster than they said it was.
LEBEAU: There has been a fair amount of commentary from people who have said Toyota took too long to institute these recalls. Did you drag your feet when it came to recalling these vehicles over the last 6 months?
TOYODA: Well, I'm not so sure if we really dragged our feet but it's really meaningless to say that at this time I mean looking back. So what I want to say is the following, we would like to take these comments that Toyota took too long, very seriously and very sincerely so that we can turn it around and then ignite sort of a willingness to farther improve our technical capability so that we can provide even better products for the customers and definitely we would like to make this process much shorter and have transparancy and that's how I would like to steer the direction of our company.
LEBEAU: You are going to be in charge of the quality control committee that is going to be meeting for the first time at the end March and looking at how you can improve your quality control measures that are already out there, as part of that...
TOYODA: My role in that endeavor is that since I am not an engineer, there are many other engineers who have much more knowledge and experiences when it comes to the engineer matters, my role to me is that I will make sure that we are maintaining customers eye-level or their perspective in whether or not we are not derailing from the safety first. and I will be constantly watching that. I think that's my role in that. And I really believe that the vehicles are made by the roads on which they run. In otherwords, the roadways in the United States, japan and Europe they are all different. And therefore the running conditions are different and what that means is that we really need to listen to the users or the customers who use those vehicles in different regions much more carefully. And to that end we would be working even more with our distributors and dealers in each of those locations and really sincerely listen to the voices from the customers.
LEBEAU: When you look at some of the past complaints that have come out in the last 6 months and it's clear that Toyota lost its way in the last couple of years. What do you say to the Toyota customer who bought a Toyota primarly because it has had world class reputation for safety and reliability and now they look over the last couple of years and they may say to themselves, I'm not so sure these guys have been thinking first and foremost about what's best for the customer?
TOYODA: 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. We have been continuing a number of recalls. So the number one priority is that working with the dealerships very hard, 24/7, so that those customers would feel safe and reassured about the safety of the vehicle again. We are working very hard right now with a very fast speed and that's I believe how we can regain the trust of our customers.(BREAK) Well it's not true that I have spoken with all, every single one of our customers, however 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 definitly consider a Toyota vehicle. And as long as we have those customers remaining that really support in us, keep doing what we are doing right now.
LEBEAU: A lot has been made, you opened your remarks today on Capitol Hill, you apologized to the Sailor (sp) family and you expressed your remorse at any of these accidents that have taken place, have you talked to representatives of the Sailer family personally? And when you' heard about what happened in that accident or when you heard Rhonda Smith testifiying about what happened with her Lexus. What are your thoughts when you think about these accidents and what had been described?
TOYODA: I really would like to sincerely convey my condolences to the survivors of the Sailer 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. But when I think about other victims or the survivors family member and how they feel the best way we could convey our sincere apology is to really fix our business from the bottom from the baseline and i think that's the way we should do that and I would like to repeat my most sincere condolences to them.
LEBEAU: I am done with my questions is there anything you would like to ask that we haven't touched base on that you think is important for people to know about Toyota, or about what you guys are doing right now.
TOYODA: Today it was rather unfortunate that we had to talk about our quality issue at the congress hearing because there were customers of ours who feel concerned about the safety of our vehicle. The cars are not just a means of transportation, that's something that people can really enjoy riding. And I myself is really fond of vehicles. I love Toyota, I love cars. and those cars bear my names and therefore I hope that one day we can have more fun, more light hearted discussion or the dialogue with customers how to enjoy riding our vehicles. But to get to that day I would like to just try very hard to keep working on what we are working on right now so that we could regain customers' trust as early as possible.
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