Toyota Motor Corp. is naming new leaders at five of its factories in North America, including plants in Kentucky and Indiana, and replacing two Japanese executives with Americans, saying the moves will give more authority to local managers.
The announcement comes as Toyota is working to boost its quality and repair its image in the U.S. after widespread safety recalls of cars and trucks. The new appointments take effect July 1.
At two plants, American executives will be replacing Japanese managers. Norm Bafunno was named president of the company's vehicle assembly plant in Princeton, Ind., while Chris Nielsen is becoming president of an assembly plant in San Antonio, Texas. Both are veterans of Toyota's U.S. manufacturing operations.
Toyota spokesman Mike Goss on Wednesday said the company has been gradually moving American executives into leadership roles in the U.S. for years. Japanese executives have traditionally been in charge of new plants first, he said, then replaced with domestic executives.
The company also promoted two manufacturing executives. Ray Tanguay, president of an assembly plant on Ontario, becomes chairman of that plant. Steve St. Angelo, president of plants in Georgetown, Kentucky and Mississippi, was named chairman of both plants.
Last week, Toyota announced it would restart construction of its nearly complete factory in Blue Springs, Miss. The plant will begin building Corolla compact cars starting next year.