Rocky road for Toyota

09:44 | 20/06/2011
The Toyota Motor Vietnam engineer who went public with details of technical problems with the carmaker’s vehicles has been handed a three-month suspension.
The carmaker is in a spin as it is the focus of some unwelcome publicity

Le Van Tach, who first got wind of the suspension last week, said it wouldn’t stop him putting together a dossier of evidence about flaws in a range of Toyota Motor Vietnam’s (TMV) models.

He added he aimed to passing these on to the authorised agencies soon.

“If I’m fired from TMV without reasonable causes after the suspension, [then] I will resort to lawyers,” said Tach.

In 2006, 2009 and then again in November, 2010, Tach uncovered problems with Innova J and Fortuner vehicles including substandard rear wheel brake cylinder pressure, striker bolt No8 tightening torque reduction and camber tightening before suspension high adjusted. 

The carmaker continues to downplay these flaws, calling them “issues”.

The company did, however, take action. On June 7, TMV announced that it would offer free checks for brake oil pressure issues for all 6,108 Innova J vehicles manufactured between December 26, 2005 and November 24, 2010.

Tach talked down the value of the move, saying far more vehicles – some 50,000 – were actually affected by the pressure problem.

Tach was also cited by reporters at last week’s TMV press conference as saying that technical flaws were not limited to the Innova J and Fortuner models, but were also present in the Hiace, Camry, Corolla Altis and Vios models.

Until Wednesday last week, TMV’s public relations department said some 63,000 Innova J and Fortuner cars had these three “issues”, and that 5,000 cars had already been checked and adjusted.

At the press conference, TMV chose to focus exclusively on four quality control issues in the Innova, Fortuner and Vios models.

The issues included rust and oil leakage from rear axle in the Innova and a body sealer application method that was different from drawing in the same model. For both the Innova and Fortuner the front-wheel alignment adjustment condition was different from drawing. When it came to the Vios, it was front lower-arm assembly condition that was different from drawing.

However, TMV failed to mention how many cars had these issues and when the issues had come to light.

Tach said after unveiling the cars’ flaws to the media, he received threats from his seven workmates. He had then sent a letter to TMV’s general director Akito Tachibana denouncing these colleagues and asking for an official apology and compensation from TMV.

TMV then decided to suspend Tach for the three-month period from June 13 to September 13, which would be needed to investigate carefully the dispute between Tach and his colleagues.

Tachibana said the suspension came because Tach had “negatively affected other workmates’ work” as prescribed in the Clause 2 of Item 56 of the company’s working regulations, and that Tach had also “hurt the honour and prestige of a number of individuals in the company” as per Clause 16 of Item 57 of the same regulations.

During the suspension period Tach will still be paid 50 per cent of his normal take-home pay.

“We would like to investigate carefully and properly. We would like to be quite careful about this matter. We need to investigate the issue from different angles,” Tachibana said.

TMV’s lawyer Do Ngan Binh affirmed that: “The suspension for Tach does not relate to Tach’s whistle-blowing. The suspension means we need more time to collect more evidence. It is also in line with Vietnam’s current Labour Code.”

By Thanh Tung

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