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Executives trade blame at Toyota

Toyota Motor Corp.’s quality crisis is exposing – and exacerbating – a long-simmering internal feud. The battle pits the founding Toyoda family against a group of professional managers, each blaming the other for the automaker’s woes.

The feud dates to the mid-1990s, when the family relinquished control of the CEO’s office for the first time since Eiji Toyoda, the cousin of the founder, became president in 1967. Non-Toyodas also ran the company from 1950-67.

Takahiro Fujimoto, a professor of economics at Tokyo University who has studied Toyota extensively, says airing problems openly is very much part of Toyota’s corporate culture focused on kaizen, or continuous improvement. "But it’s highly unusual for anybody inside Toyota to publicly criticise certain individuals by name," or to criticise in a way that it’s easy for anybody to identify the targets.