BEIJING: Toyota Motor President Akio Toyoda on Monday apologized to Chinese consumers - who make up the world's biggest auto market - over the company's massive global recall.
"The incident had caused worries to Chinese consumers," Toyoda told a packed news conference. "I hereby express my sincere apologies for these worries."
Analysts said the apology to Chinese consumers is significant as it acknowledges the importance of the Chinese market that has become increasingly key to automakers as they struggle with weak global sales. Last year, China overtook the United States as the biggest auto market.
"The China market is very important to Toyota, so I decided to fly here directly from the US in person to deliver my expression of apology and explanation to Chinese consumers in the hope of regaining trust here," said Toyoda, president and CEO of the world's second-largest automaker, and the grandson of the company's founder.
The number of Toyota vehicles recalled in China makes up only a small percentage of the 8.5 million pulled worldwide since October for sticky gas pedals, faulty floor mats and glitches in braking software.
In China, 75,500 units of Toyota's RAV4 models produced by FAW-Toyota in Tianjin are involved in the recall because of defective brake pedals. Toyota said that except the RAV4, all other models sold in China are free of accelerator or brake problems.
Echoing remarks made in Washington, Toyoda told the Chinese media that Toyota's safety problems stemmed from a company that was expanding too fast and was now doing all it could to remedy its problems.
In Washington last week, Toyoda was grilled by US lawmakers over the recall.
"Toyota thinks when something like this happens it's very important for automotive manufacturers not to hide anything and put the customers' safety first."
"His visit to China shows Toyoda considers the China market one of his company's most important," said Zhong Shi, an independent analyst based in Beijing.
Toyota's sales continued to decrease in February. It sold 45,400 cars in China last month, said company spokesman Hitoshi Yokoyama. In January, the company sold 72,000 units, down 16.3 percent from the previous month.