Toyota chief stresses safe growth
TOKYO: After four tumultuous years bookended by an unprecedented recall crisis and a return to the top of the global auto industry, Akio Toyoda is refashioning Toyota Motor Corp. into a leaner company that’s more imbued with the venture spirit of founder Kiichiro Toyoda, his grandfather. In an exclusive interview with The Associated Press, Toyota’s president said he is putting new auto plants on hold for three years and reshaping the automaker’s structure to give more autonomy to regional divisions and foreign executives. Whatever growth “a reborn” Toyota pursues must be “sustainable,” Toyoda, 56, told AP at Toyota’s Tokyo showroom.
“We have to keep improving, getting better and better, not taking for granted that we have recovered,” he said. He was speaking after Wednesday announcing an overhaul of management that was the clearest statement yet of his vision to create a more nimble, transparent and globally-minded company to prevent any recurrence of the mistakes of recent years.
Toyoda said in the interview that the company won’t start building any new auto plants through 2015 to keep fixed costs down despite burgeoning sales and what he feels are good prospects for global auto growth. Plants already under way will still be completed. He said that reflects a decision to focus on growing leaner and making better use of what it already has to boost profitability, not just sales. “There are some plants that are busy, and some plants that aren’t so busy,” Toyoda said. It plans to be more flexible about shipping cars from one nation to another, such as the Yaris from Europe to the U.S., to improve factory efficiency. Among the key leadership moves announced Wednesday was the appointment of American Mark Hogan, an independent consultant and former GM group vice president.