Toyota North America Makes Big Regional Changes


Toyota Motor North America, Inc. is making executive changes in its North and South American divisions with an eye to achieving what seems at first blush something of a contradiction: give the global regions more brand and product control while strengthening ties and communication lines with Toyota City.

The company wants to give regional executives more autonomy, since they know their consumers better than do executives in Japan -- but it's also true that the company probably doesn't want to loosen the reins too much when it comes to product quality and dependability.

Akio Toyoda, president of Toyota Motor Corporation, said in a statement that the changes will help the company's long-range Global Vision strategy it unveiled two years ago after the financial collapse in the U.S. and -- more significantly -- its own recall problems here. 



Part of the Global Vision plan involves vehicle production -- including subcompacts and a vehicle platform the company calls "Innovative International Multipurpose Vehicle" -- that addresses Toyota's various markets. It also involves bringing Lexus models and green vehicles like Prius to emerging markets, per a statement the company promulgated in 2011. The target is to go from 40% of global sales in emerging and 60% in industrialized markets to a 50/50 split by 2015. 

To that end, effective April 1, the company is elevating Jim Lentz -- who is currently president and CEO of Toyota Motor Sales' (TMS) U.S. operations, SVP Toyota Motor North America, and managing officer of Toyota Motor Corp. -- to senior managing officer of TMC, CEO North America Region, and president and COO of TMA. In essence, Lentz will have the catbird seat over Toyota's operations on this continent. Moving into Lentz's old position and reporting to him is Kazuo Ohara, managing officer, TMC and EVP, Lexus International.

Steve St. Angelo, who oversees engineering and manufacturing for TMS, will become CEO of Toyota's Latin America and Caribbean region based in Sao Paulo, Brazil, He will also be chairman of Toyota do Brazil. 

Mike Michels, VP corporate communications, tells Marketing Daily that both Lentz and St. Angelo will be moving into roles that are totally new to the North American organization. He adds that while there has been a president of Toyota Motor North America, that position did not have authority over sales, R&D and Manufacturing, or total north American profit and loss responsibility. "The previous function was as head of a holding company, not CEO of North America." Also, Toyota Canada formerly reported to Japan, but now reports to Lentz.

Michels explains that North American operations are now more autonomous, as each of the fundamental units in North America used to report separately to counterpart organizations in Japan. Now they report to Lentz, who reports to the new mature markets division in Japan. "One conduit rather than many. One leader for North America rather than many," he says.

Mark S. Templin, who handles Lexus in the U.S. now, is moving to Toyota City, Japan to handle the luxury brand's global operations. The company says this is a cultural first: Templin will be the first non-Japanese executive to oversee a division from global headquarters. He will replace Jeff Bracken, who today works as VP of sales at Toyota division.

Bob Carter, SVP for automotive operations at TMS, will be the first executive to handle sales, service, marketing, customer initiatives, vehicle distribution and parts operations for Toyota, Lexus and Scion.

Said Lentz in a statement: "Integrating Toyota's North America affiliates under a more unified and streamlined management structure will significantly enhance local responsibility over operations, clarify decision-making and strengthen our 'customer-first' focus."

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