Toyota North America chief executive Jim Lentz will retire this spring and be succeeded by Tetsuo ‘Ted’ Ogawa, Toyota North America’s current chief operating officer.
Speaking with The Wall Street Journal, Lentz stated that Toyota is making long-term bets on electric and autonomous vehicles that could take decades to play out. The outgoing chief executive said it is important for the Japanese automaker to bring in someone new who can oversee this shift.
“I’m not going to be around long enough to see that through to the end,” he said. “So it’s important that we bring someone else now that can take us through that next phase.”
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The 64-year-old became a key player in the automotive sphere back in 2010 when he testified in Congress about unintended acceleration problems as the head of Toyota’s U.S. sales arm, admitting that recalls of roughly 8.5 million vehicles worldwide and over 6 million in the United States may not have been effective. As chief executive, he has seen first-hand the shift in preferences among U.S. consumers towards SUVs and away from smaller vehicles. Lentz also oversaw a consolidation of Toyota’s U.S. operations into a single campus in Plano, Texas in a bid to cut costs and unify manufacturing, sales, and research teams.
Lentz ventured into the automotive sector with Ford in 1978 before moving to Toyota in 1982. In 2003, he was the man that oversaw Toyota launch its youth-focused Scion brand. He will officially step down as chief executive on April 1 and be immediately replaced by Ogawa.