Ronald Hoedemakers, 43
Head of business development and innovation, quality, Toyota Europe
What was your first automotive job and why were you interested in the industry?
From early on I have had an enormous passion for everything to do with automobiles and motorsports. The late Brazilian Formula One driver Ayrton Senna was one of my childhood heroes. When I read an article in the newspaper that Toyota Europe was significantly expanding its operation in Belgium, I immediately applied for a job. A month later I joined their quality team. I started as a supplier quality engineer. I was responsible for the improvement of body and engine parts. I have never looked back. I'm home.
Your greatest achievement?
Right after joining Toyota, I had to overhaul its supplier warranty improvement framework. It had been slow, inefficient and didn't meet the objectives of quickly responding to our customers' concerns. We wanted a customer-focused operation. I set out to standardize the actual policy, process and organization. However, they also needed to be automated and digitalized. I led a task force encompassing all divisions of Toyota and laid out my holistic vision for the quality information system. Within months we started the rollout of an industry-unique online portal. It allowed for real-time warranty data analysis, parts recovery, reporting and cost share. On a personal level, I recently finished my first marathon following six months of training. I actually injured myself just two weeks before the event. It goes to show you that perseverance really will get you across the finish line.
Born: Sint-Niklaas, Belgium
Languages: Dutch, French, English, German
Education: Master's degree in engineering electro mechanics, Karel de Grote University College, Antwerp, Belgium; master's degree in industrial management for information and communication technology, University to Leuven, Leuven, Belgium
What was your biggest failure and what did it teach you?
I once had to let go of a team member who I had played a role in hiring just a year earlier. It really made me reconsider the importance of ensuring thorough vetting. It's not just about facts when hiring. It's important to go with your gut feeling about a person as well.
What is your current challenge at work?
Like the entire industry, Toyota is undergoing major changes. It's something we haven't seen in a century. The major challenge is changing from a vehicle maker to a mobility company. We need to re-establish our quality assurance framework to always exceed our customers' expectations.
What is the best advice you have ever received?
Do what you believe is right and don't be afraid of making mistakes.
What advice would you give to a person considering a career in the auto industry?
Be curious so you can learn from every opportunity and problem. Try to be logical so you can understand better. Also show integrity. That way your colleagues and the company know they can rely on you.
2020-present: Head of business development and innovation, quality, Toyota Europe, Brussels, Belgium
2020-2021: General manager, quality, Toyota Europe, Brussels
2013-2019: Senior manager, quality, Toyota Europe, Brussels
2012: Manager, quality (body and chassis), Toyota Europe, Brussels
2008-2011: Manager, quality (manufacturing and supplier warranty), Toyota Europe, Brussels
2006-2007: Senior engineer (supplier warranty), Toyota Europe, Brussels
2003-2005: Engineer, quality (supplier improvement), Toyota Europe, Brussels
2001-2003: Analyst, Caterpillar Distribution Services Europe, Grimbergen, Belgium
What job do you really want to have in the future?
A job where I have the ability to shape the current and future direction of the company on both the business and personnel levels. I would focus on quality because it's vital to the entire operation. By exceeding our customers' expectations, we can make them smile.
What do you do to relax?
I'm a passionate runner and my goal is to complete a marathon in less than three hours. I'm getting close. My personal best is 3 hours, 6 minutes.
What is your dream location to live?
Within my country, Belgium, I really enjoy Antwerp. This is where I lived during my engineering studies and spent most of my young adult life. However, New York City is fascinating to me too. It feels like it's a country of its own.
What is your favorite driving song?
It's the song "Speed Up" by Funkerman.
What was your favorite road trip and why?
For my first vacation with friends, we drove nearly 1,900 kilometers. We passed Paris, went over the Pyrenees mountains, enjoyed the costal roads between San Sebastian and La Coruna to ultimately arrive in Sanxenxo, Spain. I was 18 and this trip allowed me to really work on my driving skills. At the same time, I learned a lot of Spanish because that's the only language the locals spoke.
What was your first car?
It was a Land Rover Discovery.
I drive a Toyota RAV4 hybrid.
If you were a car, which one would you be?
I would like to be a Toyota 2000GT. It is a true classic car that has timeless elegance and style. It also starred in one of my favorite James Bond movies, "You Only Live Twice." I hope I will age as nicely as the 2000GT.