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Toyota Opens Two More U.S. Quality Control Offices

Mon, 01/24/2011 - 3:48am

TORRANCE, Calif. (AP) — Toyota Motor Sales has opened two more U.S. product quality field offices, more than a year after safety-related product recalls bruised the company's reputation for building safe, reliable cars.

The offices, located in Houston and Jacksonville, Fla., will put more Toyota researchers in the field, helping the Japanese auto giant detect and address quality problems, the company said. It said the offices' proximity to customers and dealers will help Toyota catch problems early.

Toyota already opened offices in San Francisco and New York. A fifth office is set to open in Denver by the end of March, Toyota said.

Toyota said the offices' proximity to customers and dealers will help it catch potential problems early.

Each office is staffed with three to five engineers working on a specific set of issues.

The specialties are: for Denver, SUVs and high-altitude performance; for Jacksonville, heating, ventilation, air conditioning and drivability; for Houston, trucks; for San Francisco, hybrid and alternative-fuel vehicles; and for New York, cold-weather vehicle performance and salt corrosion.

In December, Toyota agreed to pay $32.4 million in fines to settle the investigation into its handling of two recalls. The latest settlement was on top of a $16.4 million fine Toyota paid earlier.

The field offices are part of a six-part plan Toyota laid out in February to address concerns raised by the recalls. The company pledged to improve quality inspections, collect better data from customers, create regional research centers, consult more outside experts; and make its regional subsidiaries more autonomous.

Toyota Motor Sales USA Inc., based in Torrance, Calif., is Toyota's U.S. subsidiary.

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