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Akio Toyoda heads to Washington

I take it back. Or, more accurately, Toyota took it back. Company President Akio Toyoda is going to testify in Washington after all. Toyoda, the 53-year-old grandson of the company’s founder, first said he wouldn’t go before Congress. After I wrote yesterday’s post, he reversed the decision and will testify on Feb. 24.

This has been handled poorly on two levels. First, it’s just another example of the company’s inconsistency. He’s not coming, then he decides to show. Toyota looks like it is reacting to criticism from Congress as opposed to responding decisively to a crisis. Similarly, Toyota’s American executives have maintained that they issued the accelerator pedal recall voluntarily while one Japanese executive said they were prodded by the U.S. government. The company needs to get a handle on this crisis, make decisions faster and stick to them.

The second problem is that Akio Toyoda is probably not the best man for the job. For reasons I have stated in this blog item, Yoshimi Inaba is the best executive to go before Congress. Exposing the boss, who is also a Toyoda family scion, risks turning the hearing into a bigger circus than it already likely will be.

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