Toyota is searching for a new vice president of purchasing for North America to replace Chris Nielsen, who is being transferred to run the automaker's San Antonio, Texas, assembly plant.
Nielsen, 46, vice president of purchasing for Toyota Motor Engineering & Manufacturing North America Inc., moves to the Texas job effective July 1.
Atsushi Kume, senior vice president of purchasing for North America and Nielsen's boss, will take over Nielsen's tasks until a replacement is found, said Toyota spokesman Mike Goss. He could not give a timetable.
Asked whether Toyota is looking both internally and externally for a replacement, Goss said: “We always try to promote from inside.” He also said the position ultimately will be filled; “it's just a matter of timing.”
Toyota's annual purchasing of parts, materials, goods and services from suppliers in North America totals more than $25 billion.
Toyota in recent months recalled more than 8 million vehicles worldwide for defects that may cause unintended acceleration.
In one recall, Toyota replaced accelerator pedals that had been supplied by CTS Corp. of Elkhart, Ind. The CTS-built accelerator -- a $15 part -- could become stuck in some cases due to wear and moisture. CTS defended its part, saying it had been built to Toyota's specifications.
Goss said the personnel change was "a natural progression of a new generation of people. It is not a reflection of the recall at all.”
Goss said the purchasing change is the result of a larger reshuffle at Toyota's manufacturing arm, which saw two Japanese plant chiefs replaced by Americans.
“From a global standpoint, we want to localize leadership,” he said. “No one knows the market or the work force or suppliers better than the local folks do. We have been developing people over the years.”
The other changes, all effective July 1:
• Ray Tanguay, 60, is promoted from president to chairman of the Ontario plant.
• Steve St. Angelo, 54, is promoted to chairman of the Kentucky and Mississippi plants. He is currently president of both factories. The assignment is effective Aug. 1.
• Brian Krinock, 47, is named president of the Ontario plant.
• Wil James, 54, becomes president of the Kentucky plant.
• Masafumi Hamaguchi is appointed president of the Mississippi plant, effective Aug. 1.
• Norm Bafunno, 49, is appointed president of the Indiana plant.
• Karl Kusturok, 50, becomes vice president of production engineering at Toyota Motor Engineering & Manufacturing North America.
• Phil Rodi, 49, is promoted to vice president of manufacturing in Ontario.
Bafunno and Nielsen are replacing Japanese executives: Bafunno steps in for Kazumori Oi in Indiana, and Nielsen replaces Kenji Fukuta in Texas. The Japanese executives will be advisers until they are assigned to new posts.