TOKYO -- Just three months ago, Akio Toyoda sent shock waves through Toyota, promoting three non-Japanese executives to top positions at headquarters in an effort to make the company's leadership reflect its global reach.
Yet a pair of culture clashes last week suggest that the Toyota chief's effort to shake up the company won't be easy.
Didier Leroy, a Frenchman who was appointed in March to become Toyota's first non-Japanese executive vice president, came under fire last week at the annual shareholder meeting from dealers upset that he speaks little Japanese. It was the first time a non-Japanese executive had addressed shareholders at Toyota's annual meeting.
Global communications chief Julie Hamp, an American who was named Toyota's first senior-level female executive in March, was arrested June 18 at a Tokyo hotel for allegedly importing a narcotic painkiller in an apparent violation of Japan's strict drug laws.
The stumbles with two high-profile foreign executives cast a pall over what had been a bold move forward in the internationalization of the world's biggest automaker. The company's outward-looking leader had elevated Hamp, Leroy and others, including an African-American executive, in the hope of injecting fresh thinking and wider global perspective into an upper management long dominated by older Japanese men. The aim of the March shake-up was to make the world's largest automaker more representative of the global markets it serves.