Toyota revises structure to address product segments, r&d

TOKYO — Toyota Motor Corp. said it will create new business units focused around product segments and roll out a new advanced strategic planning center to plot growth in an era in which sales exceed 10 million units and new technologies are needed.

The changes, announced today as part of the company’s annual leadership shuffle, promote Frenchman Didier Leroy to a new role as chief competitive officer. He will keep his title of president of the business group heading mature markets, including the United States, Europe and Japan.

Toyota will create three new product-oriented business units. One focuses on compact cars, another on midsize cars, the other on commercial vehicles. It will also launch a special unit focused on connected vehicles.

Moritaka Yoshida, Toyota’s chief safety technology officer, will take over as head of the new midsize vehicle company. Kazuhiro Miyauchi, senior managing officer for product and business planning, will lead the compact vehicle division. Keiji Masui, chief officer of purchasing, will head commercial vehicles.

The new structure, which takes effect in April, aims to create better cross-company communication, faster decision making and improved collaboration to make better vehicles, Toyota said.

“Doing so will enable the dissolution of barriers within the company and eliminate unnecessary coordination work,” Toyota said. It added that the new product-based and regional-oriented units will “compete with and learn from one another.”

New era

The move is one of several shakeups unleashed by President Akio Toyoda, 59, who sees breaking employees out of comfort zones and taking on new challenges as key to staying fresh and nimble.

In 2011, he devolved greater autonomy to regional operations in places such as North America and Europe by appointing regional CEOs. Last year, another revamp broke the automotive operations into four units and promoted non-Japanese executives to several key posts to inject new blood and wide global perspective.

“This structural change may not be the ultimate solution, but it is certainly an opportunity,” Toyoda said in the release. “Whether or not this structural change turns out to be the right solution or not is in our hands.”

The latest move comes as Toyota enters uncharted territory with global sales eclipsing 10 million. The company is shifting into expansion mode with a new manufacturing framework and a new line of global platforms that will deliver sportier, green vehicles.

At the same time, it is looking for ways to stay at the head of the pack in a time when disruptive technologies such as autonomous driving and electrified powertrains enter the fray. They not only require new ways of approaching product development, they open the door to potentially new rivals from outside the industry from companies such as Google.

R&D overhaul

As part of the overhaul, Toyota plans to create a Frontier Research Center to develop such technologies and new business models for the long term. That unit will be headed by Executive Vice President Mitsuhisa Kato, 63, a former r&d chief.

R&D will be reorganized under a new Innovative R&D and Engineering Co. to be headed by Kiyotaka Ise, current chief officer for global r&d and Toyota’s motorsports. Ise will also take over as the company’s chief safety technology officer.

Toyota is also renaming the Unit Center, responsible for engine and drivetrain development, as the Powertrain Co.

It will continue to be led by Toshiyuki Mizushima, currently the Unit Center’s executive vice president.

The overhaul keeps the regional structure that lumps mature markets into a so-called Toyota No. 1 business unit run by Leroy, and a Toyota No. 2 unit that covers China, Asia and emerging markets from the Middle East to Latin America.

It also keeps Lexus International as a separate entity. Tokuo Fukuichi, 64, will continue as its president.

Among other changes, Steve St. Angelo, 60, was promoted to senior managing officer at the parent company, keeping his role as CEO of the carmaker’s Latin America and Caribbean region.

Mark Templin, currently executive vice president of Lexus International, will become deputy chief officer for the Sales Financial Business Group and managing officer for Toyota Financial Services Co. Yoshihiro Sawa, now chief officer for global design planning, will slide over as a new executive vice president at the Toyota luxury car division.

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