Jan. 29, 2010 — -- In his first public comment about the massive safety crisis surrounding his company, the President and CEO of Toyota apologized to his customers for causing them so much worry.
"I am deeply sorry," said Akio Toyoda in a brief interview with the Japanese network NHK as he left his hotel in Davos, Switzerland. After the interview he was seen leaving in a black Audi.
Toyoda had been attending the economic conference with other corporate and government leaders this week, while his deputies struggled to quell a consumer rebellion triggered by the recall of nine million cars worldwide.
In the interview, Toyoda said he could not answer questions because the company "was still investigating." He said he hoped to provide an explanation to Toyota customers soon.
"Truly we think of our customers as a priority and we guarantee their safety," he said, according to a translation.
Referring to the near collapse of the company's once strong reputation for safety and quality, Toyoda said, "I would like for the people to trust us."
Toyoda is the grandson of the car company's founder and has publicly criticized the company's drive for profits in the last decade.
The Wall Street Journal reported Toyota would place full page newspaper ads in 25 cities Sunday and Monday to explain how it plans to fix the most-recent defect found in eight of its models involving a sticky gas pedal.
The company is awaiting federal government approval of a redesigned accelerator pedal that is being produced by its supplier, CTS, and has already been shipped to some of its factories, according to CTS.
The company ordered a halt to sales and production of the eight models with the flawed pedal on Tuesday, following a recall of millions of cars a few days earlier.
The recall, which spread to Europe and China, is now estimated to involve at least nine million cars and trucks.