Toyota Motor Corp. is on the verge of posting a record operating profit. Even so, the big Japanese carmaker's president says he continues to worry about the quality of the company's products.
Katsuaki Watanabe, Toyota president and the man responsible for the company's day-to-day operations, said he continues to fret about making sure the current products live up to the company's reputation for quality.
"Not only product quality but also continuous improvement," he said after a speech in Detroit.
Watanabe also told reporters he wasn't interested in making any acquisitions thus ruling out any kind of bid for the Chrysler Group, which DaimlerChrysler has put on the auction block. However, Toyota remains open to various kinds of partnerships, particularly in research and development, he indicated in both in his speech and remarks to reporters.
The Toyota President also sidestepped questions about whether the company would overtake General Motors and become the world's leading automaker. "You will never know until all the numbers are in," he said.
Watanabe was in Detroit to deliver a speech to the Society of Automotive Engineers World Congress last week, which Toyota chaired for the first time.
"Toyota is greatly honored to be selected as the first Asian company to chair the SAE World Congress," he noted during his speech. "Over the past two years, since becoming the president of Toyota, I have, at every opportunity, expressed how great it would be to develop a dream car," which would circle the world on single tank of gas, make the air cleaner, and avoid accidents, he said.
"The dream car may seem like a fantasy but right now there are many specific technologies being developed that can contribute to this goal," including automated driving systems, intoxication sensing, and zero-emission engines, he said.
"Ultimately competition leads to innovation and development of advanced technology but cooperation by all of us is essential to create a society in which people and transportation vehicle can co-exist in harmony," added Watanabe, who said Toyota wants to share the expertise it developed in engineering a solution to the traffic problems around its headquarters in Toyota City. Cooperation with municipal officials and infrastructure improvements cut the average commute by 19 minutes and reduced CO2 emissions by 17 percent, he said.
The SAE meeting attracted more than 30,000 engineers from as far away as India and China to Detroit to discuss issues ranging from global warming, to the development of new brakes and sensors.
During his visit, Watanabe also presided over the groundbreaking of Toyota's newest assembly plant in Mississippi and official start-up of production of Camry production at the Subaru plant in Bloomington, Ind.
Watanabe said the partnership with Subaru saved the perhaps three years it would take to build a new plant to meet the demand for Camrys. "We have been searching for other ways to produce more cars locally,'' Watanabe said. "This SIA line helps answer that challenge.''
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