Toyota opens $90M training centre in response to recall fiasco
by Yuri Kageyama, THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
The company's president said quality must remain a priority even as the company becomes ever more global, with buyers driving on a range of road conditions.
TAJIMI, Japan—Toyota is opening a training facility for mechanics, complete with a test course that simulates 13 driving conditions including cobblestones and bumpy roads, as part of the automaker’s efforts to avoid a repeat of its recall fiasco.
A ceremony with Toyota Motor Corp. President Akio Toyoda and government officials was held at the 9 billion yen ($90 million) Tajimi Service Center Monday in Gifu Prefecture, near Toyota city where the car maker is headquartered.
Toyoda said quality must remain a priority even as the company becomes ever more global, with buyers driving on a range of road conditions. The centre will initially train about 2,600 mechanics year, and eventually 4,800 mechanics a year, the company said.
Toyota has about 120,000 mechanics around the world and those numbers are expected to grow with sales expanding in emerging markets.
Toyota’s reputation for quality was tarnished by massive global recalls that started five years ago. The automaker announced recall after recall, spanning almost every model in its lineup, totalling more than 10 million vehicles being recalled.
At the facility, Shinto priests in robes waved branches and hurled specks of paper before an altar with offerings of cabbage and oranges in a purification ceremony. Executives, dealers and officials lined up to bow and clap in what Toyota said was a prayer that its cars would stay safe.
The renewed focus on checking up on defects even after a vehicle has been delivered highlights Toyota’s determination to stop recalls from spiraling out of control—not just in development and design stages but also after production and years of use.
The new facility might not end recall problems once and for all, but will help the automaker respond more quickly, Toyoda told reporters.
Other automakers have similar training and test-course facilities, and Toyota also has other training centres. But the Tajimi centre is among the biggest for any automaker, with a 1.3 kilometre (0.8 mile) track with 13 different kinds of road conditions, including cracked, bumpy and wet surfaces.
Dotted with “Safety First” signs, the four-story building has classrooms and car-maintenance labs.
The arrival of new kinds of vehicles such as hybrids means maintenance crews must be trained to spot abnormal vehicle responses, diagnose problems and research new kinds of service technology, according to Toyota.
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