Toyota’s North American Execs Gain Power, Changes to Corporate Structure

Toyota’s plan to restructure the relationship between the Japan-based headquarters and its regional offices are underway in North America. Any issues and development of products sold in the region no longer go through Japan for approval. The changes will result in “a powerful improvement in timing and design,” said Yoshi Inaba, CEO of Toyota Motor Sales U.S.A.

According to Inaba, regional engineers and executives have endured frustrating amounts of bureaucratic red tape and time-eating signoffs and approvals from Japanese executives during all stages of developing a product. Even then, not everything would get the green light. "When it comes to the really detailed pieces and getting Toyota U.S.A. involved in every process of product development, our desires have not been reflected,” said Inaba.

Furthermore, the specifications were usually impossible to adjust and alter if the market changed drastically during the time between development and production. "We have had little contact in updating [Japan], in terms of specifications and varieties," Inaba said. "Then we get close to launch, and we think, 'We should have done this or that.'" The new structure, he said, "will make us more responsive to the market, and market change, during that time."

Toyota vehicles included in the new plans include the Avalon, Camry, Venza, Sienna, Tacoma and Tundra. According to Automotive News, the new and upcoming Toyota Tundra will be the first product sold under the automaker’s new structure. It’s unclear what product planners and engineers have in store for Toyota’s large truck, but Inaba states that they are more motivated than ever “because now they are empowered.” Much of the development for Toyota’s global vehicles such as the Corolla will still go through the offices in Japan.

Toyota president Akio Toyoda announced his plan to give regional offices more power shortly after the company’s unintended acceleration fiasco here in the States. He hopes this solution will improve transparency within Toyota’s management structure, while bringing quality issues to the surface much sooner than later.

Source: Automotive News (subscription required)

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