Toyota CEO apologizes for massive car recall

(AP) - After a week of silence, the boss of the world'sNo. 1 automaker finally appeared in public Friday to apologize overmassive car recalls, but it may not help stall Toyota's escalatingpublic relations crisis.

Akio Toyoda, the automaker's 53-year-old president and CEO, heldhis first news conference since the Japanese company announced arecall for faulty gas pedals on Jan. 21 affecting 4.5 millionvehicles. At a hastily called briefing Friday night at thecompany's Nagoya headquarters, he was grilled by reporters wantingto know why he finally came forward.

"I wanted to tell customers directly through the media thatthey are the first priority," he said after apologizing butdefending his decision to rely on deputies thus far to speak onToyota's behalf.

"Whether it's myself or my vice presidents, we as Toyotaoperate with one voice."

His only public comment until Friday had been a brief, impromptuinterview last week with Japanese broadcaster NHK on the sidelinesof the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.

His silence otherwise grew louder by the day, along withconcerns his absence was exacerbating Toyota's woes which nowinclude brake problems with its Prius hybrid - the crown jewel inthe automaker's vehicle lineup.

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