Whoever is advising Akio Toyoda, Toyota chief executive, on PR has not exactly covered themselves in glory. Toyota has widely been seen to be slow in responding to the unfolding safety disaster. That view is only going to be compounded by news that Mr Toyoda does not plan to appear before US congressional committees investigating the defects that have led the troubled Japanese automakers to recall of millions of vehicles. Mr Toyoda said Yoshimi Inaba, head of Toyota’s US business, would represent the company at the hearings.
This can only end badly for Toyota. It gives a bad impression that Toyota’s top management are ducking the issue or not taking it seriously enough or trying to hide something. Worse, it is an untenable position. If Mr Toyoda seeks to dodge the hearings, such will be the public backlash that he will inevitably be forced to backtrack and go to the hearings. If Toyota is serious about rebuilding its franchise in the US, Mr Toyoda has no alternative. He must go to Washington.