Toyota learnt well

JAPAN'S minister of transport yesterday criticised Toyota as being too slow in responding to its recall crisis initially, but said the car-maker had learned its lesson and was announcing recalls quicker.

JAPAN'S minister of transport yesterday criticised Toyota as being too slow in responding to its recall crisis initially, but said the car-maker had learned its lesson and was announcing recalls quicker.

Seiji Maehara, who will meet US Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood later this week during a trip to Washington, said the Japanese government was checking Toyota vehicles, including the Prius hybrid, for possible problems with electronic devices but has found no problem so far.

"Toyota has on its own recognised that it had been slow,'' said Maehara, who heads the ministry of land, infrastructure, transport and tourism.

Toyota took just a week to announce the recall of a Lexus sport utility model in the US earlier this month, after Consumer Reports warned it may be prone to rollovers.

That was a contrast to the four months the US government says Toyota took to order its huge recall of other models over sticking accelerator pedals.

"Consumer Reports is respected and objective and so the recall came immediately," Maehara told a small group of reporters in his Tokyo office.

Maehara said the Toyota problem was sure to be discussed when he meets LaHood, although a personal sales-pitch for Japanese trains is high on his agenda.

But he stressed the exchanges on Toyota would take "wide perspective," centering on the importance of US-Japan cooperation on issues such as Toyota.

"Should there be any Japan-bashing, that would not be positive for the American economy either," he said, referring to a possible extreme backlash against Japanese manufacturers, which he said had been avoided so far.

"Safety is of utmost importance for any nation," he said. "And it is an obligation that must be met by the company." Toyota recalled 8 million vehicles worldwide. - Sapa-AP

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