Toyota President Akio Toyoda was to testify on Capitol Hill Wednesday, and was expected to apologize for the safety issues that prompted a massive recall.
Toyoda speaks English, but was to talk to lawmakers through an interpreter.
But, as CBS News' Cecila Hatton reports from Tokyo, not everything was expected to translate.
After ascending to the driver's seat of his family's company, Akio Toyoda can't escape the media's hot seat. The young president's getting a harsh lesson in the art of corporate apologies.
In Japan, executives are expected to bow to sooth public wounds. The lower the bow, it's thought, the deeper the regret.
But that solution won't work in the U.S. Analysts believe Toyoda's poor crisis-management skills, coupled with a corporate culture built on doing things slowly by consensus, led to the company's snowballing PR nightmare.
"In Japan, they have this proverb: 'When it stinks, put a lid on it.' And clearly, that's the way Toyota has approached this recall problem," said Jeff Kingston, director of Asian studies at Temple University, Japan.
Close ties between the Japanese government and the corporate sector there mean most industry scandals are patched up in private.
A CEO in Japan would never face public hearings, especially a member of the Toyoda clan, the family behind the country's flagship brand.
"This company represents Japan and scandals that involve accidents are a bit embarrassing," said a young Japanese woman on the busy streets of Tokyo.
Akio Toyoda's going to have to work fast to prevent more humiliation. After a 25-year apprenticeship for the automaker's top job, it took him a mere nine months to land in the center of the biggest crisis the company's ever faced.