Toyota Revamps North American Management to Boost Regional Unity

Toyota Motor Corp. (7203)’s plan to promote its North American manufacturing chief to lead all operations in the region is part of a push by Japan’s largest carmaker to tighten coordination in the company’s biggest market.

Shigeki Terashi, president of Toyota Motor Engineering & Manufacturing America, will also become president and chief operating officer of Toyota Motor North America, effective April 1 and lead a regional management committee, the company said yesterday in a statement on its website. He succeeds Yoshimi Inaba, who will continue as chairman of Toyota’s U.S. sales unit.

Unlike in Japan, Europe and China, Toyota’s North American operations are split between a sales company, a manufacturing and engineering division, a corporate unit and finance arm. The company concluded it needed faster decision making in North America when a recall crisis developed in 2010, said Jeff Liker, an engineering professor at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor specializing in Toyota research.

“A lot of countermeasures after the recalls related to creating more regional self-reliance,” Liker said. “The structure they’ve had here worked well, but the world is changing so fast and competition is getting so much better.”

Toyota recalled more than 10 million Toyota and Lexus vehicles worldwide in 2009 and 2010 for defects associated with unintended acceleration.

Along with Terashi’s promotion, Jim Lentz, currently president and chief operating officer of U.S. sales, will become chief executive officer of Torrance, California-based Toyota Motor Sales. He is the first American to be named to the CEO post of the sales unit, Toyota said.

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Separately, the company yesterday said it’s recalling more than 681,000 vehicles in the U.S. to fix faulty stop lamp switches and air bag-related parts. The recalls cover 2009 model Camry sedans, 2009-2011 model Venza wagons and 2005-2009 model Tacoma pickups, Toyota said.

Terashi is the first North American manufacturing and engineering chief to also become the automaker’s head of regional operations, said Jim Wiseman, a company spokesman. He will continue to be based at the company’s regional manufacturing headquarters in Erlanger, Kentucky, Wiseman said.

Inaba, tapped by President Akio Toyoda to oversee North American operations in 2009, will remain on the Toyota City, Japan-based carmaker’s executive committee that Terashi is to lead. Other members of the panel that was created last year include Lentz, plant executives Ray Tanguay and Steve St. Angelo and George Borst, head of Toyota’s North American finance unit.

Toyota’s American depositary receipts rose 0.7 percent to $80.72 at the close yesterday in New York. They’ve gained 22 percent this year.

To contact the reporter on this story: Alan Ohnsman in Los Angeles at aohnsman@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Jamie Butters at jbutters@bloomberg.net

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