Toyota Motor Corp. President Akio Toyoda bowed deeply and apologised to shareholders today for the troubles caused by massive global recalls of the company's cars.
Toyoda was facing shareholders for the first time since the Japanese automaker's reputation for quality was damaged by the quality crisis that started last October.
Again bowing deeply after the remark, Toyoda also said the company was doing its utmost to improve quality control and thanked shareholders for their support.
"I apologise deeply for the concerns we have caused," he said. "We believe our most important task is to regain customers' trust."
The shareholders' meeting was closed to the media, but the proceedings could be seen in a TV monitor in another room at Toyota headquarters in the city named after the automaker.
Toyota, the world's biggest automaker, has been working to patch up its reputation after more than 8 million vehicles were recalled worldwide over reports of unintended acceleration and other defects.
US authorities slapped Toyota with a record $16.4 million fine for acting too slowly on the recalls. Toyota dealers have repaired millions of vehicles, but the automaker still faces more than 200 lawsuits tied to accidents, the lower resale value of Toyota vehicles and the drop in the company's stock price.
Although the recall debacle hung over the shareholders' meeting, most questions were positive and supportive, asking that Toyota work harder to live up to its reputation.
"The company stumbled badly over the recalls, and it became a big problem," said one shareholder, who identified himself only by his surname Nishikawa.
But he also expressed hopes Toyoda as the "face of the company" will handle the recall problem bravely, without breaking into tears, referring to a widely reported meeting that a tearful Toyoda had with dealers in the US where the recall crisis was concentrated.
Others asked about Toyota's strategy for green vehicles and how it planned to expand in emerging markets, including dealing with labour strife that has temporarily shut down production.