Toyota has appointed its first non-Japanese vice-president as well as its first western female executive as it seeks to bring more diversity to its top ranks and respond to the government's call for "womenomics".
The world's biggest carmaker by sales on Wednesday announced that Didier Leroy, president and CEO of Toyota's European operations, would take over leadership of the company's "number one" business unit, becoming its most senior non-Japanese executive, reports Andy Sharman in Geneva.
In terms of the hierarchy of the Japanese group, the six current executive vice-presidents sit beneath chairman Takeshi Uchiyamada and chief executive Akio Toyoda.
The company also said on Wednesday that it would appoint Julie Hamp as managing officer, five rungs below Mr Toyoda and its first female non-Japanese executive.
Japanese companies are under pressure from prime minister Shinzo Abe to improve governance and raise the country's growth potential by appointing executives from outside its typical corporate structure. For instance, Toyota in 2013 brought in former General Motors executive Mark Hogan as an advisory board member.
The Abe administration is also seeking to have women in 30 per cent of senior managerial roles by 2020. That figure was around 8 per cent last year, compared with roughly 40 per cent in the US. Ms Hamp, currently a vice-president at Toyota Motor North America, will be chief communications officer as well as the deputy for external and public affairs.
Under a plan announced in April 2013, Toyota divided itself into four business units – known as Toyota number one, Toyota number two, Lexus international and "unit centre" – partly as a way of decentralising and giving more autonomy to its sprawling regional operations.
Mr Leroy took over the European business in 2010 at a time when Toyota was registering big operating loss in the region. He has since overseen a sharp turnround.
The carmaker recorded a €995m operating loss in Europe in the year to the end of March 2009. But the first nine months of the current financial year, the operating profit was €474m. That was despite the fact that sales have declined from 1.1m in Europe in the 2008 calendar year to 888,000 last year. Globally, Toyota sold 10.23m cars in the 2014 calendar year, ahead of both Volkswagen and General Motors.
Mr Leroy's new role covers R&D, manufacturing and sales – as well as product planning, design and motorsport – for North America, Europe, and Africa regions. He will also oversee sales in Japan, though will remain based in Brussels.
Johan van Zyl, currently CEO of Toyota's Africa region, will take over as president and CEO of the European business.