When Toyota gets on the horn by lunchtime to tell Tokyo’s media to show up at 4:30 the same day, everybody knows it will be a big surprise and an even bigger deal. Today, Japan’s Fourth Estate already knew what’s coming when the phone rang. It still was a big deal: Toyota completely reshuffled its top executives. It even brought a non-Japanese on board, a former GM man to boot.
Earlier in the week, sources told Reuters that there will be changes at the top of Toyota. So nobody was really surprised when a day later, the changes happened. The biggest change was a further shortening of the long decision making where even the smallest project needs a series of “hanko,” or seals by the boss, his boss, and that boss’s boss. Said Akio Toyoda today at the Megaweb in Tokyo:
“It is healthy for decisions to be made by those close to the products and the ground, and there is a limit to what I can do.”
“As vehicle sales start growing again, my aim is to build a group in which everyone is aware that they are in charge.”
As expected, Toyota made Takeshi Uchiyamada, the father of the Prius and the engine behind Toyota’s hybrid drive, chairman of the board. By doing so, Toyota once again put someone in charge who knows his cars. Uchiyamada has shown that he doesn’t just know cars, he knows how to engineer cars for the future.
For the first time, Toyota brings outside directors to its board, one of them surprisingly Mark T. Hogan. Hogan was president of Magna before taking over as President of the Vehicle Production Group, a high level car consultancy. Those tidbits are ignored by Toyota’s press release which mentions instead that Hogan is a “former General Motors Corporation group vice president.”
Hogan was at GM for 31 years. Interestingly, his GM career began in 1973 with the Electro-Motive Division in Chicago. Hogan met Toyota as General Manager of NUMMI. After that, one of Hogan’s many jobs was Managing Director of GM do Brazil, where he became known for making simple, low cost vehicles though fully integrated organizations and lean manufacturing. Before he left GM, he was Group Vice President of Advance Vehicle Development. Even Toyota’s outside directors know their way around cars.
More Americans will be affected by the revirement: Toyota’s U.S. Jim Lentz advances from Managing Officer to Senior Managing Officer. Lexus chief Mark Templin advances from General Manager to Managing Officer.