Toyota on Thursday named a top U.S. executive to head a North American quality task force, as the automaker looks to beef up quality controls following millions of vehicle recalls.
Steve St. Angelo, executive vice president of Toyota's U.S. manufacturing operations in Erlanger, Ky., becomes the company's chief quality officer in North America. St. Angelo also will sit on a separate quality review committee that will meet regularly with Toyota President Akio Toyoda. The first meeting will take place Tuesday in Japan.
Toyota Motor Corp. has created several committees to take a fresh look at its quality controls after recalls of more than 8 million vehicles worldwide that have tarnished its reputation. The company has recalled about 6 million vehicles in the U.S. alone over sticky gas pedals, pedals that can get stuck under floor mats and braking problems on its Prius hybrid.
St. Angelo's group will bring together top U.S. executives at Toyota and come up with plans to boost quality assurance and customer research, Toyota said. Dino Triantafyllos, North American quality vice president, will oversee ways to improve the visibility of customer concerns and speed safety proposals, and will play a key role in decisions about recalls.
"We are making fundamental changes in the way our company operates," St. Angelo said in a statement. "The new organization will open the lines of communication globally and enable us to respond faster here in North America to any concerns about our vehicles."
Toyota spokesman Mike Goss said the task force will work closely with a separate group of outside experts headed by former U.S. Transportation Secretary Rodney Slater. Toyota appointed Slater on March 2 to lead a panel to advise North American affiliates on quality and safety issues.
Earlier this month, Toyota launched a slew of incentives to lure buyers back into showrooms after its February U.S. sales fell 9 percent. The automaker, which usually shies away from big discounts, is offering zero-percent financing and low-priced leases to customers who buy or lease several of the recalled vehicles, including Corollas, Camrys and Avalons.
Toyota also has said it will install a brake override mechanism in all future models and retroactively on some models already on the road. The brake override, which exists on many Toyota vehicles already, automatically disengages the throttle if a driver presses on the brakes.
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