Toyota Motor Corp. said Monday that longtime U.S. marketing chief James Press would replace Toyota Motor North America President Hideaki Otaka today as Otaka retires after being accused of sexual harassment by a former assistant.
Press, 59, will be responsible for directing the corporation's government, industry and investor relations and philanthropic efforts in North America.
Press, who will be based in New York, has won plaudits for overseeing Toyota's dramatic rise in U.S. sales and is considered one of the most influential executives in the auto industry.
He already is a member of the Japanese automaker's global management board -- one step below the board of directors. Press, who joined Toyota in 1970, was named last year as president of Torrance-based Toyota Motor Sales USA -- the first American to hold that post. Previously, he had been named chief operating officer. His new assignment is seen as another sign of the ascent of non-Japanese managers into the company's global corporate hierarchy.
James Lentz, 50, will become the top American operating officer at Toyota Motor Sales but will not take on Press' titles of president and chief operating officer. Instead, Lentz will become executive vice president. He also will remain general manager of the Toyota division. No other management changes are being made in Torrance, a spokesman said.
Otaka, 65, was due to return to Japan in June and was expected to take a top post with a Toyota subsidiary. Because of the harassment suit, however, Otaka has removed himself from consideration for any other job within the company.