TOKYO - Overseas assignments used to limit a Japanese executive's career. Those who had spent too much time abroad 'smelled of butter,' meaning they had acquired too many non-Japanese habits to fit in when they returned.
How times have changed.
Fujio Cho, president-designate at Toyota Motor Corp., joins a growing club of Japanese auto chieftains who once worked at U.S. assembly plants. Oth-er members include Nissan Motor Co. President Yoshikazu Hanawa, Honda Motor Co. President Hiroyuki Yoshino, and Mitsubishi Motors Corp. President Katsuhiko Kawasoe.
Oddly enough, Mazda Motor Corp., which is 33.4 percent owned by Ford Motor Co., has a president who is not a member of that club. James Miller, a native of Mun-cie, Ind., has worked in sales in the U.S. market, but never at a plant.