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Embattled Toyota Chief Says Sorry to China

The company has recalled more than 75,000 of its RAV4 sport utility vehicles made in China over faulty accelerators.

Akio Toyoda bowed in apology to hundreds of journalists assembled at a Beijing hotel on March 1, just days after he said sorry to angry U.S. lawmakers in Washington for faulty accelerator pedals blamed for more than 30 deaths.

Toyota's global recall of more than eight million vehicles included China, where the world's major car makers are competing for a slice of the rapidly growing market that claimed the top spot from the United States last year.

"I would like to express my sincere apologies to Chinese customers for the impact and worries caused (by this incident)," Toyoda said, his hands trembling as he read a prepared statement in Japanese.

"Toyota as an automaker thinks it is important to not cover up... and put consumer safety first," said Toyoda, the 53-year-old grandson of the company's founder, pledging to improve the quality of Toyota vehicles.

Toyota has recalled more than 75,000 of its RAV4 sport utility vehicles made in China over faulty accelerators.

China's product safety watchdog last week also warned drivers of imported Toyotas to have their cars -- including the Tundra, Camry and Corolla models -- checked for possible defects.

"We hope to win back consumers' confidence in China by handling the recall as soon as possible," Toyoda said.

His appearance is aimed at "stabilizing or boosting consumer confidence in the Toyota brand," said Jerry Huang, a Shanghai-based analyst with the research firm CSM Worldwide. "It is also a gesture to show the importance Toyota attaches to the China market," he said.

Huang said Toyota needed to be sure to keep a foothold in China, where it lags far behind General Motors and Volkswagen in sales. "Toyota has not introduced its full product lines into China, which means it has great room for development," he said.

Shigeru Matsumura, an auto analyst at SMBC Friend Research Center, noted: "After China, he will likely make his next stop in Europe."

Ahead of the press conference, shares in Toyota fell 1.05% in Tokyo to 3,295 yen (36.90 dollars).

Toyota's sales in China surged 53% year on year in January, but the recalls have already dampened demand, leading Toyota to start discount sales, the Nikkei business daily said.

China's auto sales surged past those in the United States in 2009 to become the world's biggest car market, according to industry data released in January. The China Association of Automobile Manufacturers said more than 13.64 million units were sold last year, an increase of 46.15% from the 9.4 million sold in 2008, Xinhua news agency reported.

Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2010

See Also
Experts: Don't Blame Lean Manufacturing for Toyota's Problems
What Went Wrong at Toyota?
All Toyota Brake Recall Articles

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