Last year was an annus horribilis for the global-sales-leading Toyota corporate empire and early 2024 saw yet another massive scandal that forced its chairman to bow humbly in public apology.
On January 29, 2024, Toyota Motor Corporation (TMC) chairman, Akio Toyoda, admitted at a press conference that its subsidiaries and affiliated companies had found it difficult to be straight with TMC about safety and emissions testing ‘irregularities’.
“We delivered products that shouldn’t have been sold, because there was fraud in the certification.
“We did something that should never have happened,” Toyoda said.
The “something” referred to Hino’s late-2022 disclosure regarding falsified engine performance results since as far back as 2003; Daihatsu’s decades-long history of falsified safety testing results that dictated closing its entire production in late-2023 and, most recently, Toyota diesel engine performance-claim errors.
One day after the public apology, Japanese Government officials reportedly entered one of Toyota’s plants, to inspect engine test data.
The January 2024 Toyota statement, covering the latest diesel scandal, said:
“During certification testing, the horsepower output performance of engines was measured using ECUs with software that differed from that used for mass production so that results could measure to make values appear smoother with less variation.
“Ten vehicle models are using the affected engines globally, including six in Japan.
“We have re-verified the mass-produced products manufactured at the plant and confirmed that the affected engines and vehicles meet engine performance output standards.
“Therefore, there is no need to stop using the affected engines or vehicles.
“However, we deeply apologise to our customers who have been supporting affected vehicles and waiting for a long time, and also to all other stakeholders for the significant inconvenience and concern that this has caused.
“Toyota has also decided to temporarily suspend shipments of vehicles equipped with the affected engines.”
The affected diesel engines include the F33A V6 in the LandCruiser 300 Series and the IGD and 2GD four-cylinder engines in the HiAce, HiLux, Fortuner, Prado and 2024 70 Series.
We asked Toyota Australia for an indication of what that means for customers here and a spokesperson told us:
“We are seeking information on any impact to vehicles in the Australian market.
“We have been informed that there is no variation in the power, torque or other powertrain-related values and in addition there is no compromise to the emissions, safety or driveability of the vehicles.
“We will keep our customers and dealers updated as more information is confirmed.
“We apologise for any inconvenience that they may experience.
“Going forward, we will provide detailed explanations to the authorities and promptly proceed with appropriate measures, including conducting testing in the presence of witnesses, if appropriate.”
The Toyota chairman’s January 29, 2024, apology was uncharacteristically non-Toyota-like. Journalists and after-market equipment suppliers around the world know that they have to be particularly careful when dealing with, or criticising, the Toyota brand, because the company has an army of lawyers at its back.
It must have been particularly humbling for the company to say:
“We consider the appropriate process of certification to be a major prerequisite for doing business as an automobile manufacturer.
“We recognise the gravity of the fact that the repeated certification irregularities at Toyota Industries Corporation (TICO), following those at Daihatsu, have shaken the very foundations of the company as an automobile manufacturer.
“TICO…will start by providing detailed explanations to authorities regarding these findings and proceed with measures under their guidance in the hopes of regaining the trust of customers and other stakeholders as a manufacturer worthy of certification.
“In addition, restructuring the relevant business will require a change in the mindset of all individuals, from management to employees, as well as a drastic reform of corporate culture.
“Such tasks cannot be accomplished overnight.
“Hence, as the party responsible for transferring the diesel engine business, Toyota will continue to provide support toward the revitalisation of TICO’s engine business.
“Furthermore, as the commissioner of these tests, we regret that we were not sufficiently attentive and aware of the fact that the procedures were not carried out in accordance with laws and regulations.
“Going forward, we will be involved in all company-wide activities to help rebuild TICO and review the situation to thoroughly ensure that safety and quality are the top priorities.”
What’s not clear is whether Akio Toyoda will fall on his sword. Under his CEO rule, Toyota ignored battery electric car development, to the glee of its global competitors; subsidiary Daihatsu falsified safety test data and its other subsidiary, Hino, disclosed years of systemic emissions testing fraud. Now, under his chairmanship, comes a fresh scandal.