Japanese car makers Toyota Motor Corp., arguably the world’s top automaker, is opening a new testing center in central Japan to push for better quality in its current and future models. The Japanese car giants want to avoid the recall scandals and fiascos that have plagued the company over the past few years, and so this new testing center will act as a training facility for mechanics, and features a complete test drive course that simulates 13 driving conditions including cobblestones and bumpy roads.
The new test facility was opened with a ceremony attended by Toyota Motor Corp. President Akio Toyoda and some government officials on Monday. Officially called the Tajimi Service Center, the facility cost around 9 billion yen (approx. US$90 million) to build in Gifu Prefecture, central Japan, near Toyota’s main headquarters. Toyoda mentioned in his speech that quality must remain a priority for the world-leading carmakers, even as Toyota’s customers become more and more global, with car users driving Toyota’s cars on a wide range of road conditions. In light of this, Toyota will use the Tajimi center to train around 2,600 mechanics this year, and eventually increase that number to 4,800 a year.
Toyota’s reputation badly suffered when recall after recall hit their car models all over the world, starting 5 years ago. The automakers suffered problems spanning almost every model in its lineup, which ultimately brought the total of all recalled vehicles to more than 10 million. This new focus, whether it will work or not, is birthed out of the carmakers’ determination to stop recalls from spiraling out of control – and not just during the model development stage but also after production and years of use. Toyoda said that the new facility might not be the ultimate solution to end recall problems, but it will help in giving better response times to issues. “When something happens next time, we will be faster with our response and then people can trust our vehicles more as safe,” he said.
Other Japanese automakers have similar training and test-course facilities, but the Tajimi center is among the biggest for any automaker, with a 1.3 kilometer (0.8 mile) track that has 13 different kinds of road conditions, including cracked, bumpy and wet surfaces. The Tajimi area also has one of the hottest temperatures in Japan, but also gets a lot of snow in the winter. This will allow mechanics to study their car models under severe weather conditions. Adam Crawford, an American mechanics instructor at the center, acknowledged that the center might not really stop massive recalls by training people who fix cars, but he said he was hopeful. “If I can instill in [the mechanics] a desire and a true want to have good quality in everything he does, from an oil change to an engine overhaul, then I think we can keep our customers happy and we can keep the quality of our vehicles very high,” he said.