TOKYO -- Toyota Motor Corp. has promoted a Frenchman, an American woman and an African-American man to unprecedented positions of power at its global headquarters. But its new diversity drive goes far beyond ethnicity and gender.
In an equally pivotal break with tradition, Toyota upgraded a crop of relative newcomers, who lack the years of schooling in the Toyota Way once deemed a prerequisite for advancement.
The shuffle, part of wide-ranging annual management changes, parachutes the executives into key global decision-making roles. The aim: inject new perspective and best practices into a sometimes-Byzantine corporate hierarchy.
While the push loosens Toyota's ossified seniority system, it also could dilute a corporate culture that has long been copied by envious rivals and credited with being the Japanese carmaker's most important, intangible weapon.
"That's the change under Akio Toyoda," Kurt Sanger, an auto analyst at Deutsche Securities Japan, noted. "He embraces that risk. He doesn't live in fear of that risk."