Toyota’s bid to diversify management hits “potholes” image

President Akio Toyoda has been pushing for an unprecedented cultural makeover at the top ranks of the largest automaker in the world, as he shockingly promoted three non-Japanese executives to senior management positions at the corporate headquarters in Tokyo.

The company has been heavily criticized for years because its senior management was mostly made up of Japanese men, and the global reach was never firmly reflected at the company’s top leadership level. Now Toyoda’s bid to change that issue has hit its first bumps in the road, with two cultural clashes shaking up the company’s chief executive officer and president effort to make deep changes. First off, Didier Leroy, a Frenchman who had a regional European position was named Toyota’s first non-Japanese executive vice president. But he was immediately criticized during the company’s annual shareholder meeting by dealers who were enraged he spoke little Japanese. That cast a shadow over the first instance a non-Japanese executive was on stage to address investors at the annual meeting.

And last week, the new global communications leader, Julie Hamp, an American and Toyota’s first senior-level female executive, was arrested June 18 at a Tokyo hotel for allegedly bringing into the country prescription drugs that were breaching Japan’s strict drug laws. The two mishaps now jeopardize the bold move to better reflect the company’s global efforts – the forward thinking leader had brought Hamp, Leroy and several others, including an African-American executive to senior positions in a bid to refresh the global perspective of a company long dominated by older Japanese men.

Via Automotive News Europe