Toyota readies executive reshuffle, aims for rapid response culture

Tue Mar 5, 2013 3:54am EST
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By Yoko Kubota and Kentaro Sugiyama

TOKYO (Reuters) - Toyota Motor Corp (7203.T: Quote) will reshuffle its top executives as soon as this week, people familiar with the plan say, as President Akio Toyoda tries to dismantle a regimented decisionmaking hierarchy at the world's top-selling automaker.

Toyoda, who took the top job at the firm in 2009, has slashed the number of board directors and given more power to executives in key markets outside Japan as part of his effort to refocus the company on quality and manufacturing flexibility after a series of crises.

The next round of changes is intended to build on reforms made by the 56-year-old president which have helped Toyota regain its rank as the world's top selling car, and to fend off aggressive competition from its major rivals Volkswagen AG (VOWG_p.DE: Quote), General Motors Co (GM.N: Quote), and Hyundai (005380.KS: Quote).

In the upcoming shift, Toyoda wants to give managers lower down the corporate chain more authority to make day-to-day decisions, freeing the executive vice presidents to concentrate on strategic thinking, according to one source, who asked not to be named because the plans have not been announced.

"Personnel moves are announced when decisions have been made. We cannot comment on this matter, including the timing or the content," said Ryo Sakai, a Toyota spokesman.

The company has seven executive vice presidents who, besides overseeing operations in a particular market or markets, are in charge of one or more business areas such as production control, manufacturing, purchasing and accounting.

Toyoda wants his vice presidents to focus more on making broad decisions, according to a person briefed on his thinking.

At public events and company meetings since he took helm nearly four years ago, Toyoda has hammered out the message that the firm must focus on making "ever-better cars" and bringing excitement to its line-up rather than concentrating on shifting units, or short-term financial targets.   Continued...

Toyota Motor Corp President Akio Toyoda speaks in front of images of the company's factory during a news conference in Tokyo in this December 25, 2012 file photo. REUTERS/Yuriko Nakao/Files