Whether Toyota CEO Akio Toyoda learned his lesson about speaking from his heart after the unintended-acceleration fiasco and subsequent fallout (you'll remember that Toyoda was conspicuously silent during the early stages of the drama) or whether it's a calculated public-relations move, one thing is for sure: The guy has been speaking in plain, sometimes brutally honest language often since then.
Case in point: this interview with Automotive News, from the Nurburgring in Germany, where Toyoda was on hand to cheer on the Lexus LFA supercar. Not only did he reiterate that the company's quality problems are not a recent phenomenon -- he traced early issues to the global expansion that brought sales up to 6 million vehicles per year all the way back in 2003 -- but he even acknowledged that stalwart models such as the Camry are getting dated and that the company is feeling competitive pressure from the likes of Ford (he specifically mentioned the Taurus), GM and Hyundai.
Toyoda also said that the Scion brand, whose initial appeal was endlessly customizable, fun-to-drive cars, has been "neglected," and that the brand needs revitalization so as to seem unique from simply lower price-point Toyota vehicles.
Oh, and those steep incentives that Toyota has been offering to combat attempts by Honda and GM, among others, to lure in disenchanted would-be Toyota buyers? They're a necessary evil, and don't expect them to last forever. It wasn't all doom and gloom, though -- Toyoda did say that longtime Toyota customers were mostly unfazed by the recent happenings and remained loyal to the brand.