Yale Gieszl is retiring. Sort of.
He's about to become vice chairman of Toyota Motor Sales U.S.A. for a couple of years, and then he'll be available for whatever they'd like him to do. He is being replaced by a great guy, Jim Press, who I think may be Dale Carnegie's best student. He may never have taken the course, but Jim knows how to crank up an audience with automotive wisdom.
Yale told me that he always wanted to retire at 55, and he's a couple of years late. He's done a remarkable job in his nearly three decades at Toyota. Who would have thought that they routinely would be selling more than a million Toyota and Lexus cars and trucks each year? When Yale joined the company in 1970, Toyota was selling a couple hundred thousand cars and trucks.
But he has built himself and Toyota quite an establishment. The management at Toyota is deep. When there is a change, it's not some blood-curdling coup d'etat. It's just normal evolution.
Toyota spends a great deal of time nurturing its executives and shuffles them around all the time so they gain broad experience. Often, I've wondered whether someone was shipped out to right field on his way to retirement, only to see him right back in the mainstream of the company. Everyone gets a well-rounded education.
Toyota enjoys great depth of management not only in North America but in Japan. The recent change at the top in Japan engendered some small speculation, but nobody really got upset. It was as if they all expected it.
Change at automobile companies is usually traumatic. True, it was quiet when Jac Nasser became CEO and Billy Ford chairman of Ford Motor Co. But you can't say that about Jack Smith's promotion at General Motors, and the recent bloodbath at BMW makes you wonder what's going on in Munich.
Maybe trauma is normal. When the CEO is through, there is simply too much competition below for a smooth transition. Or maybe today's boards of directors simply don't allow for the easy transitions of yesterday. Boards demand results - or off with their heads!
Toyota has no such problems. A lot of that had to do with a nice fellow who is winding up his long service. Yale has worked hard.
If those folks at Toyota want to give him a fitting retirement present, they should give him that '32 Ford show car with the Lexus running gear. That'll keep him young.