Toyota's Press goes to Chrysler
Former head of Toyota North America hired to be vice-chairman and president, sharing the titles with Tom LaSorda.
NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) -- James Press, the former head of Toyota's North American operations, has been hired by Chrysler. He will share the titles of vice chairman and president with former Chrysler chief executive Tom LaSorda.
"Tom LaSorda and I are thrilled that one of the most successful executives in the history of the auto industry has joined our leadership team at the New Chrysler," said Chrysler CEO Robert Nardelli said in a prepared statement. "Our top team now consists of a world-class 'supply' leader in Tom and an equally world-class 'demand' leader in Jim."
Press will be responsible for global and North American marketing and product strategy as well as parts and service for Chrysler. LaSorda's responsibilities will be manufacturing, procurement and supply, employee relations and global business development and alliances.
Press had spent 37 years working his through the ranks at Toyota (Charts). After joining the company in 1970, he rose to the top job at the company's largest market, becoming president and chief operating officer of Toyota Motor North America. He was the first non-Japanese to head that company and the first non-Japanese to sit on Toyota's board of directors.
"I am grateful for the support and opportunities I received during my three-plus decades at Toyota," said Press in a prepared statement. "I relish this new opportunity with the Chrysler team to be a part of the resurgence of a true American icon here and around the world."
During Press' time with Toyota, that company grew from a small importer of compact cars to the second-largest seller of passenger vehicles in America, just behind General Motors (Charts, Fortune 500).
Toyota also launched two new brands under Press's tenure. One, the Lexus luxury car division, is now the biggest-selling luxury car brand in the United States. It launched in Toyota's home nation of Japan two years ago.
The other, Scion, a low-priced brand targeted at trendy urban markets, launched in 2003.
Press will now be a member of the Chrysler board of directors and a member of the board of managers of Cerberus, the private equity group that recently bought Chrysler away from DaimlerChrysler.
Chrysler's sales current sales performance - its August sales were down 6.1 percent from the year earlier - puts it at risk of becoming the 5th-ranked seller of passenger vehicles in the United States. In Before 2006 Chrysler, or DaimlerChrysler, had long held the position as the nation's No. 3 automaker, but Toyota passed it in terms of U.S. sales last year.
Toyota's climb in the American marketplace has been based largely on that brand's perception as a leader in quality and fuel economy. Chrysler, meanwhile, is trying to move away from its recent reliance on less fuel-efficient trucks, SUVs and V8-powered large cars. Chrysler's quality has also taken a hit in owner surveys from Consumer Reports and J.D. Power and Associates, while the rankings of the company's Detroit rivals have risen.
Toyota has named Shigeru Hayakawa to replace Press as President of Toyota North America, industry newspaper Automotive News is reporting. Hayakawa had been executive vice president and chief coordinating officer for Toyota North America.