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Toyota chief to employees: We must restart

Toyota Motor Corporation President and CEO Akio Toyoda bows to offer a sincere apology on March 1 in Beijing, China.
Toyota Motor Corporation President and CEO Akio Toyoda bows to offer a sincere apology on March 1 in Beijing, China.
  • Employees applaud often during speeches by all five Toyota executives
  • Toyoda doing aggressive charm offensive to bolster company's image
  • Toyota has had to recall 8.5 million cars in North America, Europe, China and Japan

Toyota City, Japan (CNN) -- The head of Toyota Motor Corp. told his employees on Friday that the company must begin again if it is to regain its legacy of quality that helped make it the world's largest automotive company.

"We must make February 24, the day of U.S. congressional hearing, as the day of restart for Toyota," said Akio Toyoda, referring to his appearance in Washington before a U.S. congressional committee investigating the recall of Toyota vehicles for problems related to stuck brakes and accelerator pedals.

"We should throw away all our past success and review our value of existence once more," he told an assembly of 2000 employees, while 7000 more watched by video.

"I'd like to revisit, not only with words but with action what our real duties are. We must go forward step by step. We must unite and do our best."

The speech was part of an aggressive charm offensive by Toyoda to bolster the company's image after 8.5 million cars were recalled in North America, Europe, China and Japan in recent months. Toyoda was widely criticized for not appearing in public for two weeks in January as the global recall crisis spiraled.

The morale-boosting talk to employees comes a week after his trip to Washington and a visit to Beijing earlier this week to apologize to customers there. "The quality problems we face now have not been solved yet. And a mountain of work has to be done," he said.

"But what I can reconfirm (through the U.S. visit) was not only remorse, but also our strength ... the strength of the bond that all of the Toyota family share," he said.

Video: Toyota Europe deals with recall

The meeting was dubbed "Urgent meeting for all Toyota --towards the new start of Toyota" and was organized by Toyota's middle managers, many of whom packed the hall of Toyota's world headquarters wearing their gray work uniforms.

They applauded often during the speeches by all five Toyota executives who participated at the U.S. congressional hearings, including Jim Lentz, head of Toyota Motor Sales USA.

"We are confident that Toyota vehicles are safe, and we will do everything we can to ensure that our customers are satisfied with repairs that we are making," Lentz said.

Lentz added, "We are going to continue to face with criticisms, and that's going to be a long road ahead."

Mitsuru Kawai, a Toyota factory head who has worked for the company for 44 years, said after the meeting that it was good "we could share what the executives went through in their own words. We would like to work as one to serve the customers' demands."