Editor's note: Detroit's bankruptcy filing took place last week. An earlier version of this story misstated the timing of the filing.
NAGOYA, Japan -- One of Toyota Motor Corp.'s newest board members says the city of Detroit's bankruptcy serves as a warning to Toyota and other automakers that would dare ignore changing market trends and react slowly to economic downturns.
Mark Hogan, the General Motors executive-turned-Toyota top brass, predicted last week's Chapter 9 filing by the Motor City -- the largest municipal bankruptcy in U.S. history -- would deliver positive results within 18 months.
Hogan spoke today at his public debut since starting as Toyota's first foreign-born outside board member last month.
The American auto industry veteran said Detroit's demise was a result of weak-willed politicians failing to cut back as the city's population withered and the local tax base imploded.
"The lesson, for companies like Toyota, is to not wait on decision-making that has to do with downturns in any market that they participate in," said Hogan, who was a GM vice president and later a president of parts supplier Magna International Inc.
"The company can and must anticipate structural changes and make those hard decisions before it's too late," he said.
Detroit's bankruptcy filing didn't come a moment too soon, Hogan said, calling it "entirely appropriate and timely."
"I believe it will help correct the situation within the next 18 months for the betterment of Detroit and for the betterment of the auto industry, particularly the Detroit 3," he added.
Hogan is one of three external directors named in March. The others are Japanese. Having outside board members is rare for a Japanese company. Having a foreign one is rarer still.
Hogan said he was head hunted by President Akio Toyoda to inject frank outside opinion into an all-Japanese board.
"Akio wanted a clear, unfiltered perspective," Hogan said.
Critics have long accused the world's largest automaker of ossified decision-making and navel-gazing groupthink. Insiders say Toyota's reluctance to delegate authority to regional operations and listen to their input helped trigger the massive unintended acceleration recall crisis that struck in 2009-2010.
"The lesson learned for Toyota in the most recent example was: Was there enough speed to respond to the crisis," Hogan said. "The recent organizational changes and change in the philosophy in the way the company makes decisions on a global basis is certainly a strong response to that experience."
Until Hogan, the only other foreigner on Toyota's board was Jim Press, who rose through the company's ranks to the executive suite. To Toyota's shock and embarrassment, Press left the Japanese carmaker in 2007 to join Chrysler.
But this is not Hogan's first collaboration with Toyota. He was first hired by Toyota in September 2010 as an external advisor on a committee that also included Alexis Herman, a former U.S. secretary of labor under President Bill Clinton.
He is also a long-time friend of Akio Toyoda.
He met Toyoda while the future Toyota chief worked at the New United Motor Manufacturing Inc. factory, a now defunct joint venture between GM and Toyota in Fremont, Calif.
During that period, Hogan and Toyoda served on Nummi's board, Hogan representing GM and Toyoda representing Toyota. Hogan said he occasionally locked horns with Toyoda when they fought for the sometimes conflicting interests of their employers.
"Those very candid discussions," Hogan said, "led to a very strong belief in each others opinions about the auto industry."