LOS ANGELES - Toyota's U.S. finance subsidiary, Toyota Financial Services U.S.A., will restructure its field operations in the wake of its separation last month from Toyota Motor Sales.
The streamlining, which took effect Oct. 1, is meant to put Toyota's borrowing and lending unit on a more even footing with the likes of General Motors Acceptance Corp. and Ford Motor Credit Co., all heavy hitters in the finance world.
Under the reorganization, the 33 branch offices of Toyota Financial Services U.S.A. will be converted to serve only dealer business - the purchasing of contracts from dealers, floorplanning, capital improvement loans and consulting on finance and insurance operations.
Some of the 33 offices will be moved, but there also may be more added. They will be renamed Dealer Sales and Service Offices.
The other departments the branch offices previously covered, such as customer service, collections, lease terminations and administrative functions, will be handled by three regional call centers, one on each coast and one in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.
`AS PAINLESS AS POSSIBLE'
George Borst, Toyota Financial Services CEO, said the head count will stay the same, but some people may choose not to move. Borst did not have a figure for how many employees will be involved.
'We will be offering a job in the new company to anybody who is a performing associate. We are trying to make this as painless as possible,' Borst said, noting that Toyota will pay full relocation costs.
Toyota also will offer outplacement services, he said.
About 2,000 of Toyota Financial Services' 2,700 U.S. employees are in the field, with about 400 employees already stationed in Cedar Rapids. Toyota still is determining how many employees will be stationed where.
Borst says that even though there will be fewer representatives in the field, they will be able to spend more time with dealers because they can focus on the wholesale side of the business, with the retail responsibilities having moved to the calling centers.
He said Toyota customers and dealers won't notice the transition.
The rollout of the new structure will go by regions: The Western region will lead off in the third quarter of 2001, followed by the Eastern region in the first quarter of 2002 and the Midwest in the second quarter of 2002. The location of the coastal offices will be announced in the next few months.
The three regional offices will handle all customer calls, with a telephone system that rolls over to another region when one region closes for the day. This will give finance customers the ability to reach Toyota for 12 hours during the day.
The new global structure of Toyota Financial Services Corp. will allow a more streamlined bureaucracy on the financial side of Toyota's business, Borst said.
Toyota Financial Services U.S.A. holds $30 billion in assets, about two-thirds of Toyota's global captive finance presence.