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Toyota replaces exec accused of sexual harassment

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From the newsroom of Automotive News

Toyota replaces exec accused of sexual harassment

Jim Press promoted to president of Toyota Motor North America

Toyota Motor Corp., moving quickly to squelch the bad publicity over charges of sexual harassment against its top executive in America, on Monday replaced that executive.

Jim Press, 59, president of Toyota Motor Sales U.S.A. Inc., will leave the sales company to become president of Toyota Motor North America in New York. Respected as one of the brightest minds in the automotive business, Press will oversee the holding company for the corporation in America.

Also, Yuki Funo, 59, chairman and CEO of Toyota Motor Sales in Torrance, Calif., will add the titles of chairman and CEO of Toyota Motor North America. The changes take effect immediately, Toyota said.

They will replace Hideaki Otaka, who has resigned as president and CEO of Toyota Motor North America.

Otaka, 65, was subject of allegations that over several months last year he twice groped and sexually harassed his executive assistant, Sayaka Kobayashi, 42. On Monday, May 1, Kobayashi sued Otaka and Toyota in New York Supreme Court, seeking $190 million. The lawsuit got widespread publicity.

Toyota Motor North America handles investor relations and government affairs for the automaker. It also coordinates messages on those areas from Toyota's sales and manufacturing operations in North America and the parent company in Japan. But it is not an operating company. Toyota's North American sales and manufacturing report directly to Japan.

At Toyota Motor Sales, Toyota Division General Manager Jim Lentz, 50, will become executive vice president and take over Press' operational duties. But Press' post of Toyota Motor Sales president will not be filled immediately, the automaker said.

Task force formed

In addition:

 Former Secretary of Labor Alexis Herman will head a seven-person task force to review Toyota's sexual harassment policies and procedures. Herman is chairman of the automaker's Diversity Advisory Board. In addition to Herman, four other members of the task force are women.

 All Toyota executives in the United States will be given special training "to enable them to better recognize, prevent and handle any instances of inappropriate behavior," the automaker said in a statement.

 A policy change will now require that any charges of harassment or misconduct against a chairman, CEO or president of a Toyota affiliate be reported directly to the unit's board of directors.

The policy change is significant.

In her lawsuit, Kobayashi says she reported her allegations first to Ko Takatsu, Toyota Motor North America's vice president of human relations. But she says the company did not investigate.

Then in early December, Kobayashi says she took her complaints to Senior Vice President Dennis Cuneo, the second-highest executive in Toyota's New York office. Otaka was Cuneo's boss.

Kobayashi says Cuneo arranged a private meeting between her and Otaka. But instead of an apology, Otaka criticized and humiliated her.

Toyota's announcement of the executive changes makes no mention of Cuneo.

Toyota spokesman Irv Miller said, "From what I can tell, Dennis will continue to perform his job functions at TMNA. Other than that, I cannot comment."

In Toyota's announcement, Otaka said he expects "to be fully vindicated" in the lawsuit.

"I have regretfully come to the conclusion that my continued service as president would serve as a distraction and ultimately not be in the best interests of the company," Otaka said in a statement.

Otaka has withdrawn from being considered for a job as in-house auditor at Toyota affiliate Daihatsu Motor Co. in Japan. He will be a Toyota retiree, and won't pursue another job within Toyota until the legal case against him concludes, a company spokesman said.

Lentz on fast track

The personnel move is a major boost for fast-tracker Lentz, Toyota group vice president and Toyota Division's general manager.

While Lentz keeps the responsibility over Toyota Division, he also assumes all the operational oversight that Press previously held. His new corporate title will be executive vice president, instead of the president's title that Press held.

With this move, Lentz has vaulted past numerous other Toyota veterans in the executive hierarchy, an impressive move considering Lentz was working in the shadows just a few years ago.

Although he joined Toyota in 1982, Lentz first came to the public eye when he led the launch of the Scion youth brand in 2002, a position he surrendered to become vice president of Toyota Division marketing later that year. Lentz, 50, was promoted to his current job in March 2005.

You may e-mail Dale Jewett at djewett@crain.com

You may e-mail Mark Rechtin at mrechtin@crain.com


Edited by regfootball

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see, toyota is not immune. they thought they might be, but.....


camlee transmissions

what WILL they do now?

Edited by regfootball

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maybe should be playing less grab ass with the comely young assistants and focus on the cars again.

there has been a marked increase in complaints about toyos and hondas regarding sqeaks, rattles, fit & finish, materials etc etc...

it may just a matter of time before everything evens out and goes bak to square one.

if everyone abondoned gm or benz and winds up in another lemon such as toyota or whatever, where do they go after that?

the more of these cars that make it to market the better the chances of finding faults, more likely than not.

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Sex scandal puts Toyota in the headlines


AutoWeek | Published 05/08/06, 11:08 am et 

NEW YORK - After months of torment, Sayaka Kobayashi says, she walked into the office of her boss at Toyota Motor North America Inc. on Dec. 12 thinking that his sexual harassment would end. At the very least, she wanted him to apologize.

The meeting with CEO Hideaki Otaka, 65, Toyota's top executive in North America, had been arranged by Toyota's second-in-command, Dennis Cuneo. But Otaka did not apologize to his executive assistant. Rather, Kobayashi alleges that Otaka criticized and humiliated her, calling her ungrateful for his efforts to advance her career. The 42-year-old employee says Otaka groped her on a business trip and in New York's Central Park, showered her with unwanted roses and jewelry, boasted about his marital infidelity and wanted her to have his child. And she contends that Toyota stonewalled her complaints.

Kobayashi gave her account of the meeting in a sexual harassment lawsuit filed on May 1 in New York Supreme Court and in a telephone interview with Automotive News. She seeks $190 million in damages from Otaka and Toyota.

The lawsuit got wide media play last week, an unusual black eye for a company accustomed to positive press. A New York Post headline blared: "Oh, What a Feeling! Toyota Boss Groped Me," an acerbic recycling of Toyota's old advertising tag line.

Edited by regfootball

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hmmm, 3 out of the 5 other stories about toyota(same manufacturer) are less than glowing.

plus the sexual harassment thingy...

who thinks anyone will notice or care or feel obligated to make an excuse.

i really could not care less, but for a company that could do no wrong, it seems like the floor is weakening...

aside from that, the prius is having manufacturing reductions...is this a tactic to increase the already significant premium that this "car"/buggy already commands?

they used to pull this $h! with video games, probably still do to some extent.

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Granted she's no knockout, but it could be a lot worse at 42!

I'd say she's probably better looking than 80% of women her age.

...but that's beside the point.

<rant warning>

Why do people care so much about sex scandals? OK, so you did something wrong. Apologize and move on. In a company I can understand a little more, but it really confused me when they tried to impeach Clinton. Especially when we've just all learned through leaked memos that Bush wanted to bomb Al Jazeera, convinced only by Blair not to do it. I'm sorry, but if the US thinks that getting a blowjob from an intern is an impeachable offence, how is plotting to take away FREEDOM OF SPEECH from another culture NOT an impeachable offence?????


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"Hellooo, my little Yaris. Howzabout you open your sweet little hatch and let Daddy Avalon drive on in?" :scratchchin:

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"Hellooo, my little Yaris.  Howzabout you open your sweet little hatch and let Daddy Avalon drive on in?" :scratchchin:

Okay, and I know this is totally not related to the post topic, but I was surprised to hear the commercial pronounce it "Yah-ris". I thought it would be pronounced a little differently.

Oh, and looks like the &#036;h&#33; is hitting the fan at Yoda. Let's keep it coming ^_^

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It's funny that someone actually made that Micheal comparison.

Everyone says that Micheal got all that plastic surgery to be white. I personally always thought he looked like an ugly Japanese woman.

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Posted Image

Sheesh, I don't know how any kid would let that thing into the same bed...

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