LOS ANGELES -- The departure of product executive Mike O'Brien from Toyota Motor Sales U.S.A. Inc. to Hyundai Motor America has coincided with a reorganization of Toyota's product planning and advanced product strategy departments.
Previously, Toyota's product planning functions were split into Toyota car, Toyota truck and Lexus groups. Now the division is divided into North American and imported vehicle groups. These groups will carry out planning for the existing lineup, including replacements for vehicles such as the Toyota Camry.
A Toyota U.S. source said the changes will streamline product development decisions, especially for vehicles meant solely for the United States, and give more autonomy to the North American operations. Toyota's internal study teams found that poor communication between the United States and Japan was partly to blame for the slow response to the recall crisis that started last year.
Product planning still will be overseen by Vice President Doug Murtha. Greg Lang, a corporate manager, will oversee North American vehicle development. Ben Mitchell will oversee imported vehicles, including some Toyotas and all the Scion and Lexus product lines. Sandy Lobenstein will lead pricing for all models as well as electronics planning, color and trim.
On the advanced product strategy side, O'Brien's departure resulted in some musical chairs.
Vice President Arthur Kipferler assumed O'Brien's position, which includes advanced powertrain, regulatory and environmental planning. Kipferler retains his old responsibility for the North American planning department. He now reports to Chris Hostetter, group vice president of advanced product strategy and product planning.
Giving Hostetter's department more clout gives Toyota's U.S. operations more long-term involvement with Toyota's Japanese headquarters in determining strategies for meeting corporate average fuel economy, emissions and other regulatory mandates.
Two other promotions as a result of the changes: Flaurel English has been named vice president of advanced product strategy, overseeing long-range market planning, consumer research, clinics, focus groups and advanced research. Deb Senior, reporting to English, will oversee long-range market planning and advanced product strategy for all new additions to the lineup.