Recall Shakes Japan's Confidence In Toyota
LINDA WERTHEIMER, host:
This is MORNING EDITION from NPR News. Im Linda Wertheimer, in for Steve Inskeep.
RENEE MONTAGNE, host:
And Im Renee Montagne.
Toyota is one of the most revered companies in Japan, but the global recall of millions of Toyota cars is threatening its standing there. In a moment, well see how the recall is going at a Toyota dealership in this country.
WERTHEIMER: First, we will hear how the story is playing in Japan, where Toyota has scheduled a news conference later today. The initial public reaction there has been muted. But the bad news has continued, and Toyota has now acknowledged that its Prius hybrid has problems with its antilock breaks.
Lucy Craft is our reporter in Tokyo. She joins us on the line. We asked her if theres going to be a recall of the Prius.
LUCY CRAFT: The countrys leading business daily, The Nikkei, has been reporting all day long that a recall is imminent and its going to happen. But everyone else is playing it safe and saying the company is still making up its mind, which is probably whats happening. There is a fierce debate going on in Toyotas headquarters in Tokyo because they dont think that there are any defects involved, and that the problem can be fixed fairly easily by adjusting some software.
WERTHEIMER: With all the recalls going on in other kinds of Toyota cars, the Prius was just kind of like the icing on the cake over here, huge amount of coverage about the Prius, a great deal of upset. Whats the reaction there?
CRAFT: Well, compared to the blanket coverage that this crisis has got in America, theres been very little coverage in Japan, which is rather surprising. For example, the - one of the main networks here, NHK, in its hourly newscast last night, spent the first 20 minutes of the show talking about the resignation of a sumo wrestler, the second 20 minutes talking about a political scandal. And then buried almost in the bottom of the newscast right before sports was five minutes about the Prius news conference, so it really hasnt registered on the national radar quite yet.
WERTHEIMER: I understand that some people in Japan are blaming U.S. automakers for playing a role in badmouthing Toyota, and that the whole crisis is being played down for that reason. Do you think thats true? I mean...
WERTHEIMER: ...do you think people believe its true?
CRAFT: I think people just cant get their minds around the fact that there could be something seriously wrong at Toyota. Its just such a - an institution in this country. There really is no American company that has this kind of stature, I would say. One of my colleagues, who works for one of the main Japanese network news shows, said when the recall issue started to heat up, one of the first reactions in her office was just shock, and people were just shaking their heads, and someone said this must be a conspiracy by GM or somebody in the U.S. to bring Toyota down. And for a lot of people this is scarily reminiscent of the 1980s, when there was actual - literally Congress people were bashing Japanese cars in Capitol Hill.
WERTHEIMER: What about public opinion in Japan shifting? You know, in this interconnected world people cannot be unaware of all of the disturbance that the Toyota problems are causing in the United States. Do you think that public opinion is sort of shaking and quaking at all?
CRAFT: I think its starting to shake a little bit, I should say, but you have to remember that Toyota is not just admired in Japan. Its in many ways the bedrock of Japanese society. Its a source of national pride for Japanese, a source to their identity, and not to mention the fact that its a huge contributor to Japanese employment and the GDP. Their image may be starting to get a little bit tainted, but I think most people just cant get their mindset on the fact that somethings really wrong at the company.
WERTHEIMER: Lucy Craft, thank you very much.
CRAFT: Thank you.
WERTHEIMER: Lucy Craft is a reporter working in Tokyo. She joined us on the line from there.
NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.