Good find Jeff! Another interested article is that Toyota has a new President
TOKYO: Toyota, the Japanese auto giant, on Tuesday named Akio Toyoda to head the company his grandfather founded, in a widely expected management reshuffle as the company struggles - like the rest of the auto industry - amid the worst demand downturn in decades.
The appointment comes as Toyota braces for an operating loss in the fiscal year ending March 31, its first operating loss in over 70 years.
Earlier Tuesday, the company released sales figures for 2008 showing that vehicle sales had dropped 4 per cent to 8.972 million last year. This is in line with previous company forecasts, and reflects the grim environment for the auto industry that has forced the leading U.S. automakers to seek government bailouts.
For the parent only, which excludes the minivehicle maker Daihatsu Motor and the truck unit Hino Motors, sales fell 5 percent to 7.996 million vehicles, Toyota said in a statement. Sales at the two units totaled 976,000, up about 4 percent from 2007.
Consumer demand for cars and other goods has plummeted, especially in the United States and Europe, as the global economy slows. Automakers across the world have raced to cut back production and work forces, but even those, like Toyota, which had been considered relatively resilient to the downturn because of their stable of fuel-efficient cars, have seen sales slump as the downturn and credit crunch drag on.
Toyoda will succeed Katsuaki Watanabe, who will become vice-chairman, in June. Fujio Cho will remain as chairman.
Fluent in English, Toyoda, an executive vice president whose responsibilities included Toyota's North American operations, has spent years learning the automaker's far-flung operations, working in China and Japan as well as the United States. Toyoda is something of a corporate star in Japan, and will likely draw more attention to Toyota, often considered the most conservative Japanese car company.
Toyoda earned a law degree at Keio University in Japan and an MBA at Babson College in Massachusetts and spent time at the beginning of his career as a management consultant in New York.
"If I am going to be at the top of the car company, I want to be the owner-chef" - with knowledge not just of its vehicles but their ingredients, he said in an interview last February.
Shares of Toyota were up 1.3 percent at ¥3,070, outperforming a decline of 2.6 percent in the Nikkei 225 share average.
Running Toyota might seem like Toyoda's birthright, but it was not guaranteed. His family, which started the auto company in 1937 as an offshoot of its automated loom business, controlled less than 1 percent of the automaker's stock as of last year.