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Q&A: Jim Lentz, Toyota’s Top “Gaijin”

A "family" of Prius products; and "passionate" minivans?

by on Aug.05, 2009

Can a "family" of Prius hybrids and "more passionate" design and performance reverse Toyota's recent problems?  Top American executive Jim Lentz is betting on it.

Can a "family" of Prius hybrids, plus "more passionate" designs, reverse Toyota's recent problems? Jim Lentz is betting on it.

It wasn’t supposed to turn out this way.  Going into the New Year, it was starting to look like nothing could go wrong for Toyota, not after it nudged aside General Motors to become the world’s best-selling automaker.  But things turned south in a hurry as a result of the calamitous collapse in the American auto market.

With its U.S. subsidiary posting hefty, double-digit declines, the Japanese parent suddenly plunged deep in the red.  That’s prompted big management changes, right up to the chairman’s office, where Akio Toyoda, heir to the company’s founding family, has become the new Toyota Motor Company CEO.  If anything, however, President Toyoda is planning to put more power into the hands of the company’s American management team, including Chief Operating Officer Jim Lentz.

Informative, insightful.

Informative, insightful.

The boyish-looking Lentz has worked his way up through the organization, and left his touch on Toyota Motor Sales, USA, in many ways.  Yet, he plans even bigger moves going forward, as he explains in this Q&A.