Toyota North America’s new CEO, Jim Lentz, has some big shoes to fill.
Actually, several pairs, since in this new position Jim becomes the first person in Toyota’s history to have responsibility for all North American operations – from sales and marketing (TMS) to engineering and manufacturing (TEMA) to Corporate operations (TMA).
Appointed by Akio Toyoda, Toyota’s President and grandson of the founder, Mr. Lentz’s position signals a new emphasis on Toyota’s goal of local autonomy and self reliance.
Jim, who holds an MBA from the University of Denver, has been preparing for this job since 1982, when he joined Toyota as merchandising manager in the Portland region. Since then he held positions of ever-increasing importance: directing the launch of Scion division to reach the next generation new-car buyers, expanding Prius into a family of hybrids and leading Toyota Division as President and CEO of Toyota Motor Sales.
With his new responsibilities he will also have some traveling shoes to fill. In one of his first moves as Toyota’s CEO of North America, Jim announced that Toyota will centralize their U.S. operations in Plano, Texas.
“I wanted to get sales, manufacturing and corporate operations in one location, to be more efficient and to put more resources against engineering and design”. He is quick to point out he isn’t combining the entities, “I am moving them so we can learn to work as one, in one location”.
A hallmark of leadership is consistency. When the Detroit Free Press presented Mr. Lentz with their 2013 Automotive Leadership award they said:”If a good leader is the one with a steady hand on the rudder in good times and in bad… Jim Lentz has met the test. His stewardship during Toyota’s most turbulent time earned him the honor…”
Maybe it was his experience selling vacuum cleaners door-to-door while in high school or it could have been the competitive spirit honed through playing ice hockey that helped him achieve a 5 handicap in golf, whatever the reasons – Jim Lentz brings a passion for success that is a beacon to guide leaders for the years ahead.
Jim and his wife Barbara will soon be exchanging their California address for one in Texas. In the meantime, you will most often find him on an airplane.