According to Toyota Motor North America's first American president, Jim Press (right), the North American unit will have greater authority and become more self-reliant "over time." Historically, TMNA has been tightly controlled by Toyota headquarters, with senior positions staffed by Japanese employees.
Press was named TMNA president Monday, moving up from his position as president of Toyota's U.S. sales group, after the previous president was removed from the post because of a sexual harassment lawsuit filed by a former employee. However, Press maintains that he was offered the TMNA job a month ago, and the lawsuit just brought the move forward by a month or so.
Press is looking to improve coordination of Toyota's three U.S. affiliates - sales/service, manufacturing/engineering, and research/design. Press also promised that "senior managing director" positions will soon be available to Americans for the first time, and that the popular Prius would eventually be manufactured in the U.S.
Whether or not Press's appointment, and the promised changes at TMNA, are being rushed into play to obscure the previous president's problems, it's probably all good for the future of TMNA and its employees.