Former GM exec picked for Toyota board position
APTOKYO--Toyota has tapped a former executive at U.S. rival General Motors to be on its board, the first time in the Japanese automaker's 76-year history it is appointing board members from outside the company.
March 7, 2013, 12:00 am TWN
The appointment of Mark Hogan, effective April 1, underlines efforts at Toyota Motor Corp. to grow more international, nimble, transparent and responsive to regional markets as it recovers from difficult years, including the massive recall fiasco in the U.S., to regain its position as the world's top automaker.
Under the changes announced by President Akio Toyoda, Toyota set up a new division called “No. 1” to oversee North American, European and Japanese markets, and another “No. 2” for emerging markets.
It also promoted four non-Japanese managers to oversee regional businesses, including James Lentz, an American who already leads Toyota Motor Sales in the U.S. He will head the North American region.
Like other conservative Japanese companies, Toyota has been far more insular than its Western counterparts, and had been closed in the past to the idea of board members from outside company ranks.
The changes reflect soul-searching at the company following the massive global recalls over sticky gas pedals, faulty floor mats, problem breaks and other defects that spanned several years from 2009, and affected more than 14 million vehicles — some models being recalled repeatedly.
The recalls tarnished Toyota's reputation for quality and raised questions about its ability to respond to problems that crop up in its rapidly expanding global empire, and to reassure international authorities and customers of its trustworthiness and transparency.
Besides Hogan, two Japanese, from insurance and securities sectors, were picked as outside board members. Hogan, an independent consultant and former GM group vice president, has been Toyoda's friend since they worked together more than a decade ago at NUMMI, or New United Motor Manufacturing, a California auto plant jointly run by Toyota and GM. Hogan has also previously advised Toyota.
The board appointments require approval from shareholders at a meeting in June.
Toyota has had a foreigner on its board just once in the past, in 2007, with Jim Press, an American who had headed Toyota's North American operations at a time when fears were growing about a possible American backlash over Toyota's stupendous growth. But Press left shortly afterward for a job with Chrysler.