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Toyoda promises to 'restore trust'

TOKYO — Toyota Motor Corp. President Akio Toyoda met with Japan’s prime minister today and promised to restore trust in the automaker’s cars as it embarks on a broad campaign to repair its tarnished reputation.

Toyoda pledged to improve quality controls is his meeting with Japanese premier Yukio Hatoyama and other government officials on the company’s problems.

“I explained that we will work hard to once again become a more transparent and customer-focused company,” Toyoda told reporters following the meeting.

Toyoda, grandson of the company’s founder, is recently back from trips to China and the U.S., where he testified before Congress about Toyota’s handling of its quality problems.

Transport Minister Seiji Maehara, who also met with Toyoda Monday, praised him for traveling overseas to explain the global recalls of 8.5 million vehicles.

The meetings came hours before Toyota plans a major rebuttal against suggestions that its electronics systems caused the sudden acceleration problems that contributed to the recalls.

At 1 p.m. EST, Toyota will aim to duplicate the scenario created by David W. Gilbert, a professor at Southern Illinois University Carbondale. Gilbert told Congress on Feb. 23 that he was able to recreate sudden acceleration in a Toyota vehicle by manipulating its electronics.

Toyota said Stanford University’s Center for Automotive Research will show that the malfunctions Gilbert produced “are completely unrealistic under real-world conditions and can easily be reproduced on a wide range of vehicles made by other manufacturers.”

The automaker has also launched its first big U.S. sales push since February, featuring loyal Toyota owners and big incentives like zero percent financing for five years. Toyota’s U.S. sales fell 9 percent in February and its market share fell to 12.8 percent — its lowest level since July 2005.

Following his meeting with Hatoyama, Toyoda said the new incentives could help North American sales recover in March, according to Kyodo News agency.


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