Toyota engineers discussing the design of a seat

If you don't get pinched by the wiper arm on the new Toyota Yaris, you have the company's new "devil's advocate" product development philosophy to thank. The approach entails a team of engineers doing things with the car that Toyota wouldn't normally be able to fathom. The events of the past year have shown that people will do wacky things with their cars, like making floormat layer cakes, and this spurred management changes like more local authority for North American operations.

Toyota has installed more executives in its American plants and given the U.S. arm of the business its own decision-making power on recalls, rather than waiting for word from the home office. A single database of internal and external vehicle quality discussions is also being put together to make Toyota's reaction more nimble.

There are critics of the efforts. Clarence Ditlow of the Center for Auto Safety doesn't find a new attitude in Toyota's response to quality complaints much of a departure from the past, calling it "pretty much the same-old, same-old." Sean Kane of Safety Research & Strategies opines that Toyota is "biding their time" and still tends to blame the victims rather than solve issues like the ones recently plaguing the company.

Whether Toyota's reactions are percieved critically or complimentary, there is at least the indication of a desire to rectify a damaging situation, and you can now be sure that many engineering mules are undergoing strange experiments deep in the bowels of some Toyota R&D bunker to quantify the effects of ECU pins shorted by a french fry.

[Source: Advertising Age]