Report: North America receives a key role in Toyota quality control

Article by Christian Andrei, on March 25, 2010

One of the drastic changes that Toyota Motor Corp. made in response to the recent massive recalls is for its executives to have more and unfamiliar job assignments. Two executives at Toyota's US manufacturing and engineering headquarters in Erlanger, Ky., have taken on more job titles.

Steve St. Angelo, executive vice president of Toyota Motor Engineering & Manufacturing North America in Erlanger, Ky., got the additional title of North American chief quality officer. Meanwhile, St. Angelo's vice president of quality, Dino Triantafyllos, got the role of regional product safety executive.

Toyota has had to make radical changes in how it oversees product quality in North America and the rest of the world. Many complained about Toyota's slow and combative response to years of consumer complaints about unintended acceleration in some of its best-selling models.

In 2009, Toyota recalled 8.5 million vehicles around the world and even had to suspend production of several assembly lines. During televised congressional hearings, Toyota executives admitted that all product recall authority resided in Japan. They also said that the home office had not been quick to respond to American safety concerns.

Toyota is in the process of making important changes especially in the manner in which the company runs its business. According to Steve St. Angelo, this is to make sure that the brand will set the bar even higher when it comes to matters that concern how the company responds to its customers and its transparency with regards to government regulators.

More importantly, it wants to establish higher standards for vehicle reliability and vehicle safety. St. Angelo adds that this new group will be responsible for opening the lines of communication on a global scale thereby allowing Toyota to be able to take action on any concerns involving its products specifically on the North American market.

This action is being done to comply with the directive of Akio Toyoda that North America should have greater autonomy in its operations. In particular, St. Angelo relates, it is expected to have an important role in making the necessary decisions of vehicle recalls and other car safety issues.

The North American Quality Task Force will be composed of the senior executives of the company’s different departments. These include manufacturing, sales, research and development, and regulatory divisions. The newly appointed Regional Product Safety Executive will also be part of the team.

Dino Triantafyllos, who is TEMA vice president of quality, will oversee different processes, two of which are to ensure that customer concerns are noticed and resolved right away and to efficiently manage safety-related proposals for North American operations.

As such, the company expects that Triantafyllos will play a very important role when it comes to decision-making on matters concerning not just recalls but all other safety concerns.

According to Mr. Triantafyllos, the goal of this quality task force is to give a guarantee that North American operations will listen to its customers as well as make a prompt and appropriate response. Mr. Triantafyllos adds that his main responsibility is to ensure that the company is able to use all of the available data at its disposal in order to make the proper action.

Press Release

St. Angelo to Lead Toyota’s North American Quality Assurance

Toyota announced today that it has formed a new North American Quality Task Force led by senior automobile manufacturing executive Steve St. Angelo, who is Executive Vice President of Toyota Motor Engineering & Manufacturing North America (TEMA). He will guide the implementation of regional improvements in concert with the Special Committee for Global Quality led by Toyota Motor Corporation President Akio Toyoda.

Mr. St. Angelo was appointed to the new role of Chief Quality Officer for North America. He will serve with counterparts from the other regions on Mr. Toyoda’s committee, which meets for the first time on March 30 in Japan.

Each regional task force is specifically charged with executing a six-point action plan outlined by Mr. Toyoda on February 5. Its elements include improved quality assurance; enhanced customer research; strengthened quality management training; incorporation of best practices through outside professionals; closer cooperation with regulatory authorities; and improved regional autonomy.

“We are making fundamental changes in the way our company operates in order to ensure that Toyota sets an even higher standard for vehicle safety and reliability, responsiveness to customers, and transparency with regulators,” Mr. St. Angelo said. “The new organization will open the lines of communication globally and enable us to respond faster here in North America to any concerns about our vehicles. In keeping with Akio Toyoda’s mandate, North America will have greater autonomy and play a critical role in decision making on recalls and other safety issues.”

The North American Quality Task Force will bring together the senior executive management of Toyota’s research and development, manufacturing, sales, and regulatory divisions and include a newly appointed Regional Product Safety Executive. Dino Triantafyllos, the vice president of quality at TEMA, will oversee the processes that improve the visibility of customer concerns, expedite North American safety-related proposals, and play a key role in decision-making with regard to recalls and other safety issues in the field.

“The aim of our new quality task force is to assure that all of us in North America listen and respond to the voice of the customer,” said Mr. Triantafyllos. “My primary responsibility is to assure that we utilize all of the data at our disposal and that we promptly decide the appropriate action.”

The North American Quality Task Force will work closely with former U.S. Transportation Secretary Rodney Slater, whom Toyota named on March 2 to lead an independent North American Quality Advisory Panel. Mr. Slater is working with Toyota to appoint additional independent members to the panel.

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