Toyota chief shifts lieutenants, wants "everyone in charge"

TOKYO, March 6 Wed Mar 6, 2013 4:45am EST

TOKYO, March 6 (Reuters) - Toyota Motor Corp will reshuffle its top bosses and take the axe to its decisionmaking structure, part of a move to put lower-ranked workers in day-to-day command as it seeks faster responses to market changes, the firm said on Wednesday.

Earlier this week, sources told Reuters that President Akio Toyoda intended to make the shift as the Japanese firm strives to hold its rank as the world's biggest selling carmaker by focusing on quality manufacturing, and bringing exciting new models to the showroom.

"It is healthy for decisions to be made by those close to the products and the ground, and there is a limit to what I can do," Toyoda told reporters on Wednesday.

"As vehicle sales start growing again, my aim is to build a group in which everyone is aware that they are in charge."

Executive vice presidents will take charge of three new business teams covering developed markets, emerging markets, engines and transmissions, while Toyoda will personally oversee the luxury Lexus brand, which sells around 500,000 vehicles per year.

Toyota named Takeshi Uchiyamada, who in the 1990s spearheaded the development of its bestselling Prius hybrid car, as chairman, replacing Fujio Cho.

It appointed Yasunari Ihara, a purchasing and corporate planning expert, and Seiichi Sudo, who worked in production control and manufacturing, as new executive vice presidents, while three will step down.

The firm, which employs 320,000 people worldwide, also brought in board members from outside Toyota for the first time, including Mark Hogan, a former vice president of General Motors Co.

The changes will take effect after an annual shareholders' meeting in June.

Toyoda, who took the top job at the firm in 2009, had already slashed the number of board directors to 13 from 27 and given more power to executives in key markets outside Japan.

That was partly in response to criticism that the company was too slow in the face of a wave of safety-related recalls that began soon after he became president.

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