TOKYO -- On the day President Akio Toyoda finally decided to face the public about his company's exploding quality crisis -- his first appearance since October -- he had an epiphany.
"Today, as so many people have expressed their sense of unease, I realized the necessity of asking you all here on short notice," he told reporters at a snap press conference called for 9 p.m. on a Friday night at Toyota Motor Corp.'s offices in Nagoya.
"Customers are having concerns over whether his or her car is all right or not, and I didn't want to keep them in such a state over the weekend," he added.
Did it finally click, the gravity of an outbreak of global recalls -- totaling 8.1 million cars?
Toyoda's appearance came two weeks after a U.S. recall for sticky pedals battered a reputation already bruised by last fall's recall of U.S. floor mats. It came a week after Toyota alarmed U.S. customers with an unprecedented sales stop of the recalled vehicles.
It came five days after his U.S. lieutenants mounted a media blitz to try calming the frenzy.
Yet it came just two days after the frenzy erupted in Toyota's own backyard.
On Wednesday, it was revealed that Japan's Transportation Ministry had ordered Toyota to investigate a rash of braking complaints in the 2010 Prius hybrid. Soon, Japanese politicians and regulators joined the global chorus criticizing the world's biggest automaker for its quality lapses.
Toyoda's oft-repeated mantra is that the customer comes first.
But with the president waiting to address the public until the crisis landed in Japan, critics might be forgiven for thinking that Japanese customers come first and all others come second.