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Former exec: Toyota was 'hijacked'

by Peter Valdes-Dapena, senior write

NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) -- Jim Press, the former head of Toyota's U.S. operations and the only non-Japanese ever to sit on the automaker's board of directors, released a statement today blaming the company's troubles on "financially oriented pirates" who "hijacked" the company some years ago.

Press worked at Toyota from 1970 until 2007 when he he went to work at Chrysler, which was then struggling to turn around after splitting off from Daimler.

Jim Press

In the statement, obtained from the Detroit Free Press, Press expresses confidence in Toyota's current president and CEO Akio Toyoda, who testified Wednesday before a Congressional panel investigating Toyota's recent safety problems.

"Akio Toyoda is not only up for the job, but he is the only person who can save Toyota," Press said "He is very capable, and he embodies the virtues and character that built this great company."

"Toyota doesn't want me to speak out, but I can't stand it anymore and somebody has to tell it like it is," Press said in the written statement. "The root cause of their problems is that the company was hijacked, some years ago, by anti-family, financially oriented pirates. They didn't have the character necessary to maintain a customer first focus."

Toyota employees must stand together behind Toyoda, Press said, to pull the company through its current troubles.

Press left Chrysler quietly late last year, as the company restructured, following bankruptcy, in a partnership with Italy's Fiat.

Toyota spokespeople were not immediately able to respond to a request for comment on the statement. To top of page

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