Jim Press, the president of Toyota Motor North America (TMA), has been announced as the recipient of this year's 2007 Automotive Industry Executive of the Year award, which surprisingly marks the first time (though probably not the last) that a Toyota exec has earned the honor. You may remember last year's recipient was Bill Ford, Jr., who technically no longer holds the position as Ford Motor Company's reigning auto exec. Press, however, is at the reigns of Toyota's North American division, which finished up last year with double-digit sales growth. Many analysts are placing their bets that 2007 will be the year that Toyota sells more vehicles in the U.S. world than General Motors, which seems entirely likely considering that GM is scaling back production while Toyota is revving up. 2007 also marks the year that Toyota will go head-to-head with its domestic competitors in the full-size pickup segment with the new Tundra pickup (show above with Press). Press also stands out for being the first non-Japanese president of TMA, and few can argue he's done an outstanding job so far. The question remains whether he can keep his ship intact as Toyota's business in the U.S. market scales ever upward. Clearly the automaker's reputation for quality has begun to crack with recalls and service issues beginning to grow in number. Nevertheless, Press will receive his award in April at a fancy shindig in Detroit attended by other OEM execs and industry leaders. Congrats, Jim!

[Source: PR Newswire]

UPDATE: This post has been correctly attributed to John Neff, who wrote the post near the end of a long day. The errors that were present have been corrected.