Editor's note: An earlier version of this story gave incorrect context for St. Angelo's and Lentz's new roles. It is the first time non-Japanese Toyota executives have overseen the entire Western Hemisphere. Also, an unrelated photo and caption that were inadvertently posted with article have been deleted.
NAGOYA, Japan -- North America and South America are radically different markets. But Toyota Motor Corp. has installed two familiar names from the United States to lead them.
Enter Jim Lentz, the new CEO for Toyota North America, and Steve St. Angelo, the CEO for Latin America and the Caribbean. Their performances will determine Toyota's success in its biggest market and in the region with possibly the highest growth potential.
For years, Lentz and St. Angelo have worked together in the United States -- buttoned-down, sunny boy Lentz on the sales side, laid-back factory geek St. Angelo on the production side.
But conditions now facing the former teammates couldn't be more different.
In North America, including Mexico, Toyota is the No. 3 manufacturer. U.S. market share was a hefty 14.4 percent last year. It expects to sell 2.2 million vehicles there this year.
In South America, Toyota is an also-ran. In Brazil, the world's fourth-largest market, the Japanese brand ranks a measly No. 8 -- trailing such marques as Peugeot Citroen and Fiat. Across the region of 40 fast-growing nations, its market share was a mere 5.2 percent.
Throughout Latin America, Toyota sold just 321,000 vehicles last year.
"I used to do almost double that in Kentucky," says St. Angelo, who previously oversaw Toyota's assembly plant in Georgetown, Ky. "We only have one Lexus dealership in all of Brazil. So when I open my second one, I can double my sales in Lexus."
Indeed, booming Latin America is poised for explosive growth. This year, Toyota's regional sales should surge 22 percent to 391,000 vehicles, he told Automotive News.
His goal: Join the upper tier of brands by the end of the decade. But he will have to boost sales without the reckless overreach Toyota experienced before the global financial crisis.