A locally based CEO for Toyota Motor Corp.'s North American operations is in the works, says Atsushi Niimi, Toyota's global chief of North America and executive vice president in charge of global manufacturing.
Toyota introduced regional, locally based bosses this year for Asia, China and Europe. Niimi has that role for North America, but is based in Japan.
Niimi, who headed North American manufacturing in Erlanger, Ky., from 2002-05, visits the United States about once a month, usually to attend meetings of the North American executive council, a roundtable of local bosses led by Yoshimi Inaba, COO of Toyota Motor North America Inc.
Other members: Masanao Tomozoe, Inaba's deputy; Shigeki Terashi, chief of North American r&d; Jim Lentz, president of Toyota Motor Sales U.S.A. Inc.; Steve St. Angelo, head of North American manufacturing; Ray Tanguay, chairman of Toyota Motor Canada; Dian Ogilvie, senior vice president of Toyota Motor North America; and George Borst, head of Toyota Financial Services.
"Right now it is a group leadership, but gradually it will change into a one-CEO system to represent North America," Niimi said. He declined to give a timeline for the shift.
Appointing a CEO to oversee North American operations was one of several reforms recommended to Toyota last month by an independent panel led by former U.S. Transportation Secretary Rodney Slater. The panel was created after last year's recall crisis.
Since the crisis, Niimi said, Toyota is rebuilding its reputation and should see sales surge with the fall introduction of the redesigned Camry sedan and Prius V hybrid wagon. Said Niimi: "I hope that marks a good restart in attracting new customers and building confidence in us."