Just over a fortnight ago, on March 14, Akio Toyoda, President of Toyota Motor Corporation, issued his first statement since Japan was hit by the horrific earthquakes and tsunami. Then, he went publicly silent. Rest assured, though, that he was working feverishly behind the scenes in managing what was surely the greatest crisis his over 50-year-old namesake carmaker has ever faced. As he was quoted by Reuters:
“The word ‘ordeal’ does not even convey the gravity of the situation. Toyota has faced the global financial crisis, massive vehicle recalls and various other difficult situations as president of the auto giant, but that the record quake and resulting tsunami ‘totally dwarfed them all’.”
Those are hardly empty words spoken from the (very) relative comfort of Tokyo and Toyota City, however, for on Sunday 27 and Monday 28 March, Akio Toyoda practiced his beloved Genchi genbutsu (“Go and see for yourself”) motto and traveled to Miyagi prefecture, near the epicenter of the killer March 11 quake. As Hans Greimel reports for AutoWeek, Toyoda visited the Central Motors Company assembly plant in Ohira, which just opened in January and makes the current Yaris sedan (and is slated to make the full 3rd-generation Yaris line) for export to the United States, as well as the nearby facilities of affiliated suppliers Toyota Boshoku and Toyota Tohoku. He also stopped by four dealerships, as well as the shipping port of nearby Sendai city, where Toyota loads the Yaris (and the brunt of the tsunami made landfall).
To All Those Affected by the Tohoku Earthquake
I offer my prayers to all those who lost their lives in the March 11 Tohoku earthquake and its ensuing aftermath, as well as my sympathy to the survivors and their families.
Not only is the struck region one of our production bases, those directly hit and vastly affected include our dealers, suppliers and numerous other partners.
I went to Miyagi Prefecture on March 27. Seeing the devastation with my own eyes brought home to me the depth of destruction and the atmosphere of sadness caused by the disaster. Seeing the situation for myself made me more determined to continue to provide useful support.
I visited government offices in Ohira Village and in Taiwa Town, which have supported our business activities in their locales. I also went to Sendai Port, to our dealerships and to our factories that produce vehicles and parts.
Although time was limited, through visiting the affected area and seeing people there trying step-by-step to get over the agony of their losses, I became strongly determined to return smiles to the faces of the people in the Tohoku region by reviving manufacturing there as soon as possible.
We believe that returning as quickly as possible to daily life can play an important part in bringing the hope of a better tomorrow at our plants, our team members once again working together, supporting each other and creating a positive atmosphere and, at our dealerships, warm and friendly staff once again welcoming customers.
We at Toyota will continue doing all we can to be of assistance to the people affected.
Akio Toyoda, President
Toyota Motor Corporation
Toyota will also provide 50 vehicles (including Prius and Corolla) to local governments and other organizations in Miyagi Prefecture to assist in recovery efforts.
Reuters reports that Nissan president Carlos Ghosn also visited the impacted northeast Japan area around the same time, specifically an engine factory in the city of Iwaki, about 50 km (30 miles) from the stricken Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant.
Photo Credit: Toyota Global Newsroom
Wednesday 30 March UPDATE: Akio Toyoda posted another statement in the Gazoo Racing blog, under his Morizo screen name. It was kindly translated for us by Bertel Schmitt of The Truth About Cars and his Japanese-born wife, and reads as follows:
Hello. This is Morizou.
Once again, please pray for the people who died in the earthquake. I want to express my heartfelt sympathy to all who have lost family and friends in this tragedy.
As mentioned in previous blogs, immediately after the earthquake, my colleagues and I went out into the field to help the local people with the reconstruction. I want to express my deepest gratitude to all who have supported these activities.
Toyota will continue to put maximum effort behind these support activities for the affected areas.
I wanted to be on scene as quickly as possible, to get a first-hand impression of the extent of the destruction, and to listen to the voice of the people directly, unfiltered, one on one.
I used the weekend of the 27th to go to Miyagi, to witness the scene. Words cannot explain what I saw.
The port of Sendai shows deep scars left behind by the tsunami. Cars parked at the boatyard, ready for shipment, were swallowed by the tsunami. The port is damaged beyond recognition.
In Miyagi, I also visited dealers. Lives had been lost there. Despite their sorrow, the dealers worried about their customers. Dealers were concerned about possibly disturbing customers with their calls, but finally, they called. The customers were surprised and grateful to receive such a thoughtful call in times of emergency.
Of our sites, I went to Central Motors, to Toyota Tohoku, and to Prime Earth Energy. They are working hard to deliver your cars as quickly as possible.
Our production sites receive a lot of valuable assistance from the town offices of Ohira and Taiwa. They are working very hard there, and I am very grateful for their huge efforts. As soon as possible we hope that the people there will have reason to smile again. The Tohoku area is famous for its craftsmanship, and I hope it will be put back to good use as quickly as possible.