Toyota's New Management Lineup Takes Shape

With the start of Akio Toyoda’s presidency a little over two months away, Toyota today announced its new management lineup. It includes the return of Yoshimi Inaba, who is expected to oversee the company’s troubled North American business after the changes are approved in June.

Inaba, a former head of Toyota Motor Sales USA, was most recently in charge of the company’s Chinese operations, but in 2007 surprisingly left to become CEO of Central Japan International Airport. Toyota has a stake in the airport operator and often sends execs to group companies, but rarely asks them to come back. One analyst suggests Inaba, a fluent English speaker seemingly at ease on most topics, may have been a little too candid for some of Toyota’s top brass—hence his time away. Still, with Toyota’s U.S. sales plunging, it seems wise to bring him back now. (The company confirms Inaba will be involved in the company’s North American operations but declines to confirm he will oversee both the U.S. sales and production divisions, as has been widely rumored.)

Inaba isn’t the only returnee. Masamoto Maekawa, currently president of Toyota Administa, and Yasumori Ihara, chief of Toyota Transportation Co. are welcomed back to the mother ship after several years away. Perhaps a sign that Toyota isn’t producing enough top level managers from within, Inaba, Maekawa and Ihara all join Toyota’s board.

It’s also noteworthy which execs are retiring. Among them the 14 managing officers and five directors that are stepping down, two names stand out: former Presidents Hiroshi Okuda, 76, and Shoichiro Toyoda, 84. Senior adviser Okuda became Toyota president in 1995 and, as well as paving the way for Toyota’s rapid expansion over the last decade, had the foresight to back research into the Toyota Prius hybrid. Toyoda, meanwhile, has spent 57 years at the company his father founded and headed Toyota between 1982 and 1992. Presumably with his son Akio, 52, poised to take over from current chief Katsuaki Watanabe, he feels his work his done.