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Toyota president Akio Toyoda issues apology as troubles grow

LOS ANGELES (MCT) — Seeking to quell the firestorm over Toyota's sudden acceleration problems, the company's president issued a rare public apology Friday — but one that analysts said was unlikely to deflect the increasing scrutiny on Toyota's actions.

Facing unusually aggressive Japanese reporters, Akio Toyoda said in Tokyo that he was "deeply sorry about the inconvenience and concern caused to our customers and others." Toyoda, grandson of the company's founder, said the automaker had reached a "moment of crisis" and would form a global task force to improve quality.

The apology came as pressure mounted for Toyota to address complaints about the brakes on its Prius Hybrid, and as Congress prepares next week for the first of two hearings on whether the automaker has been forthcoming with safety problems.

"This clearly isn't going to get them out of the dog house," said Kelly O'Keefe, a brand image expert at Virginia Commonwealth University. "They have a very significant challenge with their credibility that can't be glossed over with an announcement."

Already, the automaker faces several dozen U.S. lawsuits over a range of issues, including liability for accidents, lower value of Toyota vehicles and a decline in the company's stock.