Quality Control: Toyota Extends Vehicle Development Time

Patience is a virtue -- and in some instances, it may lead to a better product. Toyota certainly hopes so, as the automaker recently pledged to extend development time of new models to help ensure their quality meets consumers' expectations.

According to Takeshi Uchiyamada, Toyota's executive vice president, the automaker is extending development time of its vehicles by an average of four weeks. Currently, Toyota's new car and truck development process takes approximately two years, and the extra time may help Toyota's engineers -- including a new group of 100 assigned to test vehicles from consumers' perspectives -- to evaluate every aspect of a new product.

"It's important for our engineers to look at a vehicle and see how customers might use it in ways that haven't been reflected in our testing," Uchiyamada told reporters at Toyota's headquarters today. "We want them to be a little mean."

Toyota's new plan to extend vehicle development and drive time before a product reaches showrooms is another step the automaker is taking to reverse its quality slide. Earlier this year, the automaker announced several measures it has taken to raise its level of vehicle quality, including setting up a U.S.-based quality task force. Additionally, Toyota has installed measures to give regional operations more autonomy after being criticized for acting too slowly on recalls.

Although these quality initiatives may sound rather expensive, Toyota says that in the long run it will likely save the company money. A temporary hiring freeze on engineers will ultimately offset the initial investment in quality, according to Uchiyamada, and all of Toyota's new quality initiatives will take some time to implement.

In the meantime, the company must deal with the vehicles it produced after growing too quickly for "some of the areas of the company to keep up with," sentiments echoed by Uchiyamada and Akio Toyoda, president and CEO of Toyota. Toyota's quality woes from that time continue as the company announced its intentions to recall 270,000 Lexus vehicles worldwide for a valve spring defect.

Source: Reuters

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