ERLANGER, KY-Toyota has formed a new North American Quality Task Force led by senior automobile manufacturing executive Steve St. Angelo, who is executive vice president of Toyota Motor Engineering & Manufacturing North America (TEMA). He will guide the implementation of regional improvements in concert with the Special Committee for Global Quality led by Toyota Motor Corporation President Akio Toyoda.

St. Angelo was appointed to the new role of chief quality officer for North America. He will serve with counterparts from the other regions on Mr. Toyoda's committee, which meets for the first time on March 30 in Japan.

Each regional task force is specifically charged with executing a six-point action plan outlined by Toyoda on February 5. Its elements include improved quality assurance; enhanced customer research; strengthened quality management training; incorporation of best practices through outside professionals; closer cooperation with regulatory authorities; and improved regional autonomy.

"We are making fundamental changes in the way our company operates in order to ensure that Toyota sets an even higher standard for vehicle safety and reliability, responsiveness to customers, and transparency with regulators," St. Angelo said. "The new organization will open the lines of communication globally and enable us to respond faster here in North America to any concerns about our vehicles. In keeping with Akio Toyoda's mandate, North America will have greater autonomy and play a critical role in decision making on recalls and other safety issues."

The North American Quality Task Force will bring together the senior executive management of Toyota's research and development, manufacturing, sales, and regulatory divisions and include a newly appointed regional product safety executive. Dino Triantafyllos, the vice president of quality at TEMA, will oversee the processes that improve the visibility of customer concerns, expedite North American safety-related proposals, and play a key role in decision-making with regard to recalls and other safety issues in the field.

"The aim of our new quality task force is to assure that all of us in North America listen and respond to the voice of the customer," said Triantafyllos. "My primary responsibility is to assure that we utilize all of the data at our disposal and that we promptly decide the appropriate action."

The North American Quality Task Force will work closely with former U.S. Transportation Secretary Rodney Slater, whom Toyota named on March 2 to lead an independent North American Quality Advisory Panel. Mr. Slater is working with Toyota to appoint additional independent members to the panel.