Toyota Shakes Up Its Leadership

Bertel Schmitt
by Bertel Schmitt
toyota shakes up its leadership

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.

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  • Glenn Mercer Glenn Mercer on Mar 06, 2013

    Um, I am not sure if the VPG is just "a high level car consultancy." The company actually builds vehicles, jointly with AM General and Ford. (One might say "Hey, wait, that means AM General is the OEM and VPG is indeed just some kind of design consultancy." That may be true, but on the other hand the manufacturer of record of the MV-1 vehicle, according to the NHTSA, is indeed the Vehicle Production Group, LLC. Always hard to figure out exactly who's the boss with these "upfitted" vehicles; it's a bit like the world of RVs.) I've seen more than a few on the road here in Ohio. Check their website: They make big SUV/CUV-like things specially fitted for disabled persons. It seemed like an odd place for Hogan to go, but then again, any company serving the elderly in the USA is serving a growing segment...

    • Type57SC Type57SC on Mar 07, 2013

      "high level car consultancy" actually sounds better than floundering random niche vehicle startup. Omitting it is kind of like the resumes with 3 year gaps. His last 15 years don't look like steps up. Maybe he's got pictures of Akio in a Nevada gentlemens club...

  • PCP PCP on Mar 07, 2013

    Well, having been at GM for 31 years, Hogan certainly knows all the mistakes to avoid...

    • See 2 previous
    • Lorenzo Lorenzo on Mar 08, 2013

      @Type57SC Heh. I think his only son is about 70 years old, and founded a company called Mugen decades ago. You're too late for Honda, but there's always the Ford clan.

  • RHD Any truth to the unconfirmed rumor that the new, larger model will be called the bZ6X? We could surmise that with a generous back seat it certainly should be!
  • Damon Thomas Adding to the POSITIVES... It's a pretty fun car to mod
  • GregLocock Two adjacent states in Australia have different attitudes to roadworthy inspections. In NSW they are annual. In Victoria they only occur at change of ownership. As you'd expect this leads to many people in Vic keeping their old car.So if the worrywarts are correct Victoria's roads would be full of beaten up cars and so have a high accident rate compared with NSW. Oh well, the stats don't agree.
  • Lorenzo In Massachusetts, they used to require an inspection every 6 months, checking your brake lights, turn signals, horn, and headlight alignment, for two bucks.Now I get an "inspection" every two years in California, and all they check is the smog. MAYBE they notice the tire tread, squeaky brakes, or steering when they drive it into the bay, but all they check is the smog equipment and tailpipe emissions.For all they would know, the headlights, horn, and turn signals might not work, and the car has a "speed wobble" at 45 mph. AFAIK, they don't even check EVs.
  • Not Tire shop mechanic tugging on my wheel after I complained of grinding noise didn’t catch that the ball joint was failing. Subsequently failed to prevent the catastrophic failure of the ball joint and separation of the steering knuckle from the car! I’ve never lived in a state that required annual inspection, but can’t say that having the requirement has any bearing on improving safety given my experience with mechanics…