Head of product and business strategy, Toyota Europe
What was your first automotive job and why were you interested in the industry?
I joined Toyota as an environmental specialist at a time when environmental trends were becoming increasingly important in the industry. I was given the opportunity to develop an environmental strategy that not only managed business risk but also started to promote emissions-reducing technologies such as hybrids. At that time hybrids were still in their infancy. The second-generation Prius had just been launched and was still seen as niche technology. I was soon exposed to the Prius plug-in hybrid trial, which took place in Strasbourg, France, in which we had to analyze the customers’ usage of the product, which gave a great first insight into the potential of the technologies. These early experiences gave me a deep understanding of product planning as well showed me where the industry was heading.
Your greatest achievement?
Setting up the light commercial vehicle business unit within Toyota, expanding the lineup as well as creating the Toyota professional brand as the umbrella for the company’s commercial vehicles. It has been great to develop the team and implement the business strategy to grow the brand and services. The results have been really rewarding. Since we started the unit’s sales have grown to more than 150,000. There was also the introduction of two battery-electric vehicles and the prototype project for a Hilux fuel cell, which will be shown sometime in 2024.
Born: Oldham, England
Languages: English, French
Education: Master’s degree in environmental management, University of Nottingham, Nottingham, England; bachelor’s degree in geography, University of Portsmouth, Portsmouth, England
What was your biggest failure and what did it teach you?
Nobody likes to label any negative result a failure, it’s better to see them as learning opportunities. There have been several occasions during my earlier career when I was unable to gain the support I needed for a project or to move in a certain direction. When I had an idea or plan I believed in, I tended to want a get a speedy decision on whether I could move forward. I have since learned that to get the support required to move forward with a plan you need time, strong communications skills and lots of patience. Without them, you either fail or have to compromise. Rarely do either of those options result in a good outcome for any stakeholder.
What is your current challenge at work?
Guiding my team and keeping their collective motivation at a high level. The challenge is to develop and plan future product lineups to keep pace with the speed of the transition to electrified models as well as the complex regulatory environment. At the same time, we have to manage the business transformation project across Toyota Europe to ensure we have a sustainable future business foundation to be able to navigate the rapid changes that are coming and that we can continue to make the necessary investments required while ensuring we continue to deliver a sustainable growth path.
What is the best advice you have ever received
Throughout my career I have received some great pieces of advice but a couple standout. One was that creativity starts with a dream. With a dream, you create a vision. The vision lets you make a plan. The plan lets you pursue implementation. With the implementation you will have success. To me that means creativity is the key to success. Another executive told me: “Don’t work for your boss, instead, use your passion and energy to do what is right for the company.” There should be no compromises. Take action, particularly for your team, always be fair and respect your commitments.
January 2023 to present: Head of product and business strategy, Toyota Europe, Brussels, Belgium
2021–2023: Head of strategic planning, Toyota Europe, Brussels
2020–2021: General manager light commercial vehicles and corporate sales, Toyota Europe, Brussels
2019–2020: Senior manager marketing commercial vehicles, Toyota Europe, Brussels
2018–2019: Senior manager sales operations Italy and France, Toyota Europe, Brussels
2017–2018: Senior manager product management team Yaris, Toyota Europe, Brussels
2014–2017: Senior manager, product management position, long-term planning, Toyota Europe, Brussels
2011–2013: Manager, strategic planning, product management division, Toyota Europe, Brussels
2004–2010: Manager, Toyota Europe, Brussels
What advice would you give to a person considering a career in the auto industry?
It’s a fascinating time in the auto industry because there is so much change and innovation happening. The industry needs agile, fresh minds; people who are hungry to deliver dramatic change. At the same time, it’s very important to have fun at work as we spend a lot of time at work, often even more than with our families. That’s why it’s very important to enjoy what we do and to have a positive working atmosphere with great team spirit. If you are ready to go beyond your limits, use your creativity and be part of the transformation to make mobility more sustainable, more inclusive as well as more connected, the auto industry is where you belong.
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 business and personnel levels. I also want to shape a team that’s highly motivated to collectively take on those future challenges.
What do you do to relax?
It’s important for me to destress with sports. My current sports passion is ultra trail running, so long as my body allows. So far, I have completed a couple of races of more than 100 km. The next challenge is passing 100 miles, but for that I still have a long way to go.
What is your dream location to live?
I love being outdoors and especially in the mountains, so whether it is the Pyrenees or the Alps, this would be a dream.
What is your favorite driving song?
That’s a tough question because it changes depending on my mood. However, the song “Believer” by the Imagine Dragons provides great motivation and boosts my energy.
What was your favorite road trip and why?
Probably driving around France with my wife after I graduated. We drove nearly 2,000 km from the country’s east to west, to the Pyrenees and then on to Brittany. It was a wonderful two weeks of simply enjoying the beautiful French countryside and having the freedom of having completed my studies, no job and no kids.
What was your first car?
It was a Ford Fiesta with a 1.0-liter engine. Perfect to move around as a student.
A Toyota Highlander. I need the space for the kids.
If you were a car, which one would you be?
I’m going to cheat by naming two models: A Toyota Hilux for travel and outdoor lifestyle. A Toyota GR Yaris because it makes you smile.