Toyota’s Leroy skips past Japanese company misconceptions image

Years ago, when Toyota – the world’s largest automaker – hired Didier Leroy, numerous experts, including headhunters, advised him not to take the job as foreigners were not usually promoted within the senior ranks of the carmaker.

But, since 1998, when he took a job at the largest Japanese company and the leading world’s carmaker, things have changed and now the Frenchman prepares to head planning, building and selling Toyotas across half the globe. Leroy, 57, now working from Toyota’s European headquarters in Brussels, is expecting in June for shareholders to also vote his addition to the company’s board of directors – the former Toyota European boss would become only one of the six persons immediately underneath President Akio Toyoda. He is also the first non-Japanese executive vice president in the company’s 77-year history – showing that strategies can be changed as the automaker has embarked in an all-out war for the leadership position with Germany’s Volkswagen AG.

Christian Stadler, a management professor at the University of Warwick in Coventry, England believes Leroy’s appointment would be “a good thing for Japan, with its aging population and markets that are evolving very quickly internationally.” Toyota, the largest employer in Japan, is usually a company that is quickly followed in its strategies – for example the decision to lift worker wage this year was embraced by other firms in the country. With a proportion of just 2.1 percent of directors in Nikkei 225 companies being foreigners, Japan Inc needs to amend its plans quickly, due to the rapid aging of its population and the international markets rapid pace of evolvement.