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At Toyota, a cultural shift

Last month, when Steve St. Angelo, a longtime executive at Toyota in the United States, traveled to Japan, it was an eye-opening journey.

St. Angelo over the years often had to work his way up the chain of command to reach the top of the corporate headquarters. On this trip, he met directly with Akio Toyoda, the company’s president and grandson of its founder.

“Tell me bad news first,” Toyoda instructed Angelo, who heads the company’s North American quality group formed as a result of the recall of more than 6 million vehicles in the United States.

As Angelo and several other longtime American executives tell it, a new era has arrived at Toyota. Its face is Toyoda, who this month reaches his first year as president, and by these accounts, has come to appreciate how closely Toyota flirted with disaster in the United States — and is prepared to shake things up because of it.

Plenty of people do not believe Toyoda is serious. Rep. Bart Stupak, D-Mich., and vice chairman of the House committee investigating Toyota, says it is still difficult to coax information from the company about its safety problems.

And analysts say it is far too soon to say if this is the moment when Toyota departs from its Japanese roots and shares real authority with executives elsewhere.

Buffett defends Moody’s,
up to a point

NEW YORK — Warren E. Buffett, the largest shareholder of Moody’s, offered a rather tepid defense of the credit-rating company and its chief executive at a hearing on Wednesday examining the causes of the financial crisis. Mostly, he emphasized how little he knows about the ratings business other than that it is — or has been — spectacularly profitable.

Buffett appeared at hearing held in Manhattan by the Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission, where he answered questions for more than two hours while sitting next to Moody’s chief executive, Raymond W. McDaniel. He was asked over and over if McDaniel should have lost his job, given the poor performance of Moody’s, which, like its main rival, Standard & Poor’s, slapped triple A grades on hundreds of billions of dollars in bonds that were all but worthless after the housing crash.

Buffett declined to criticize McDaniel, though he had nothing much positive to say on his behalf, other than that Moody’s was no better or worse at predicting the financial fiasco than nearly everyone else on Wall Street.

After suicides, technology firm raises salaries

SHANGHAI — Stung by labor shortages and a rash of suicides this year at its large factories in southern China, Foxconn Technology said Wednesday that it would immediately raise the salaries of many of its Chinese workers by 33 percent.

The pay increase is the latest indication that labor costs are rising in China’s coastal manufacturing centers and that workers are demanding higher pay to offset an increase in inflation and soaring food and property prices.

On Wednesday, Honda Motor said it had resolved a strike in southern China and resumed operations at a transmission plant there after agreeing to give 1,900 Chinese workers a 24 percent pay raise.

The Honda strike, which lasted more than two weeks, was a rare show of power by Chinese workers, who are not commonly allowed by the government to publicly strike and walk off the job for higher wages.