Three men named “Jim” have walked the hallowed executive halls of Toyota. Former Toyota executive Jim Press spent nearly four decades at the company, reaching the level of president and chief operating officer of Toyota Motors Sales (TMS), U.S.A., Inc., before moving over to Chrysler. Jim Farley joined Toyota in 1990 and worked several divisions with his launch of the Scion brand as his most noticeable accomplishments. Mr. Farley now works for Ford as group vice president, global marketing, sales and service.
Now a third “Jim” (Jim the third?) working at Toyota has caught the eyes of Toyota’s Japanese executive board. Jim Lentz joined Toyota in 1982 as a merchandising manager for the automaker in Portland, Ore. Later, at Toyota Motors Sales headquarters in California, he held other management positions including field training manager and truck sales team manager. Currently, Mr. Lentz is president and chief operating officer for TMS.
Until April 1st, that is. Toyota announced today that Jim Lentz is being promoted to president and chief executive officer of TMS, the first American to do so. (Jim Press, above, came the closest.) We reached out to Toyota for comment on Lentz’s promotion—of any American’s promotion—to such a high level, but haven’t received a response at the time of this post. Our best guess is that Toyota Motors President Akio Toyoda wants to promote from local management, who most likely would know a particular region the best. There’s also the inevitable desire to prevent any sort of “brain drain.” Jim Press was widely believed to have left Toyota because he was not going to go any higher than president and COO; promoting Lentz to CEO helps ensure he won’t be leaving any time soon.