Page last updated at 11:53 GMT, Monday, 1 March 2010

Toyota boss Akio Toyoda apologises in China

By Chris Hogg
BBC News, Shanghai

Toyota president Akio Toyoda in Shanghai, China (1 March 2010)
Mr Toyoda said his company put consumer safety first

The president of the Japanese car company Toyota, Akio Toyoda, has apologised to customers in China, the world's biggest auto market.

Mr Toyoda travelled to Beijing after his high-profile appearance before angry US lawmakers last month.

The visit to China is more low key, but reflects the importance Toyota attaches to the market there.

Mr Toyoda spoke to reporters after meeting Chinese quality control officials earlier in the day.

"I'd like to express my sincere apologies to Chinese customers for the impact and the worries this incident caused," he said.

"Toyota as an automaker thinks it is important to not cover up and to put consumer safety first."

Toyota's share of the Chinese car market is small compared to that of most of its rivals, about 5% of the country's total auto sales.

It has recalled just over 75,000 vehicles here because of concerns over faulty accelerators, a tiny fraction of the 8.5 million recalls worldwide.

Analysts agree the visit is an effort to shore up consumer confidence in the Toyota brand.

It is a gesture to show how important the Chinese market is to the company.

That importance is likely to grow as worries over quality have damaged Toyota's sales elsewhere.

The company's sales here have held steady in recent weeks.

As one commentator put it: Mr Toyoda has come to say thanks as well as sorry.

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