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Unbelievable – Jim Press Joins Chrysler LLC

We don’t normally get involved in reporting on the management at carmakers. We don’t figure that these faceless heads are of much interest to our readers, but in the case of Chrysler LLC’s new management the stories are unfolding and they are very, very interesting. The latest is the move of Jim Press from Toyota to Chrysler.

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Incredible. Unbelievable. Jim Press, the top American at Toyota has left the Japanese firm he has been with for 37 years to join Chrysler as Vice Chairman and President responsible Sales, International Sales, Marketing, Product Strategy, Service and Parts.
One of the true gentlemen of the industry – domestic or import – Press was at the helm of Toyota Motor Sales as the firm blasted past its Japanese rivals and then began to pick off Chrysler and Ford in monthly sales figures. Press was on the board of Toyota Motor Limited – the Japanese mothership – and had moved from Toyota Motor Sales’ Torrance, California headquarters to run all of Toyota’s North American operations from New York during 2006. It is likely this move upwards to New York that took Press out of his comfort zone and made any approach by Chrysler possible.
In his new job, Press has the same title as Tom LaSorda. Chrysler said LaSorda will be responsible for manufacturing and suppliers, while Press will be responsible for sales and marketing, product strategy and service and parts. Both will report to Chrysler CEO Bob Nardelli. This is the second high profile choice that undermines LaSorda’s previous position as Chairman of Chrysler… first came Nardelli and now Press.
Press joins another Toyota alum, Debra Wahl Meyer, in moving to Chrysler. Wahy Meyer was tapped last month to be Vice President of Marketing. She had previously been Vice President of Marketing at Toyota’s Lexus Division.
“Part of my new responsibilities will be strengthening and energizing the dealer body,” Press said in a statement. “This is something I was passionate about at Toyota and will be passionate about at Chrysler.” This, of course, will be a challenge for Press because Chrysler dealers are a restive group of late. In his days as head of TMS, Press’ relationships with Toyota dealers was solid. Dealers respected Press and he respected the dealers. Chrysler’s dealer relations are so far in the dumps, however, that it will take months, if not years, for them to be repaired.

CHRYSLER PRESS RELEASE: Press leaves Toyota for Chrysler
Chairman and CEO Robert L. Nardelli teams former Toyota chief With Vice Chairman and President Thomas W. LaSorda
“World-class supply and demand leaders”
Joins Nardelli and LaSorda in new Office of the Chairman and On Board of Directors of Chrysler LLC
Press to run North American Sales, International Sales, Global Marketing, Product Strategy, and Service and Parts
AUBURN HILLS, MICH. — Chrysler LLC Chairman and CEO Robert Nardelli today announced the appointment of James Press as Vice Chairman and President. Press, who was President and Chief Operating Officer of Toyota Motors in North America Inc. and a Director of the parent company, will now be responsible for North American Sales, International Sales, Global Marketing, Product Strategy, and Service and Parts for Chrysler LLC.
“Tom LaSorda and I are thrilled that one of the most successful executives in the history of the auto industry has joined our leadership team at the New Chrysler,” said Nardelli. “Our top team now consists of a world-class ‘supply’ leader in Tom and an equally world-class ‘demand’ leader in Jim.”
“I’ve known Jim for many years and know that he will hit the ground sprinting,” said LaSorda. “I look forward to partnering with him and Bob as part of the Office of the Chairman.”
Press joins LaSorda as a Vice Chairman and President, reporting to Nardelli. LaSorda’s responsibilities will continue to include Manufacturing, Procurement and Supply, Employee Relations and Global Business Development and Alliances.
“I am grateful for the support and opportunities I received during my three-plus decades at Toyota,” said Press. “I relish this new opportunity with the Chrysler team to be a part of the resurgence of a true American icon here and around the world. Part of my new responsibilities will be strengthening and energizing the dealer body. This is something I was passionate about at Toyota and will be passionate about at Chrysler.”
Press joins Chrysler after 37 years with Toyota, where he most recently served as the first non-Japanese President of Toyota Motor North America Inc., responsible for sales, engineering and the company’s 15 manufacturing plants with 41,000 employees in North America. He was also the first non-Japanese executive selected to the Board of Directors of Toyota Motor Corporation.
During his tenure at Toyota, the company grew from an upstart new company selling 100,000 vehicles per year to the second largest auto company in the United States.

TOYOTA PRESS RELEASE: Toyota Motor North America Announces New President

NEW YORK — Toyota Motor North America announced today that Jim Press, TMA president and a Toyota Motor Corporation (TMC) senior managing director, will resign from both positions effective September 14, 2007. Shigeru Hayakawa, currently TMA’s executive vice president, will be named president of TMA and will continue to serve as a TMC managing officer.
Press joined Toyota Motor Sales, U.S.A., Inc. in 1970 and has been a key driving force behind Toyota’s U.S. operations for 37 years. Regarding his departure from Toyota, Press said, “Toyota has been the centerpiece of my life. This was the most difficult decision I have made, but I am truly looking forward to an exciting new chapter in my career.”
TMC President Katsuaki Watanabe commented, “Jim has played a significant role in strengthening Toyota’s presence in the U.S. I was looking forward to him playing a bigger role as a member of our management team, so I am sorry to see him leave. I would like to express my heartfelt gratitude for all he has done for Toyota.”
Hayakawa joined Toyota in 1977. He started in the overseas department of the Public Affairs Division, where his responsibilities included international media relations, government affairs, investor relations and corporate advertising. In 1994 he began a six year assignment in New York at TMA. He became head of the International Communications Department in 2002 and general manager of the Public Affairs Division in 2005. He was named managing officer of TMC and executive vice president of TMA in 2007.

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