Jim Press, the top man of Toyota's North American operations,
got the go-ahead from shareholders Friday to become the first
non-Japanese member of the automaker's board of directors.
Press, 60, a 37-year veteran at Toyota, was
appointed to the board in April, the latest step in Toyota's
efforts to bolster its standing as an international company.
Shareholders approved the move Friday in Toyota city, where the
automaker is based, at a nearly two-hour meeting attended by more
than 2 500 people, the company said.
The approval comes as Toyota is boosting sales in North America
and grabbing market share away from Detroit automakers. But that
success has aroused concern at Toyota of a political backlash in
the United States.
Lawmakers from manufacturing states have charged
the Japanese government has kept the yen artificially low, giving
Japanese automakers an advantage.
Press' promotion is part of Toyota's overall effort to
strengthen diversity and empower regional management as the company
grows increasingly international.
As head of Toyota Motor Sales USA, Press led Toyota's rapid
sales climb from a 9.3 percent market share in the U.S. in 2000 to
13.1 percent in 2005.
Last year, Press become the first non-Japanese president of
Toyota North America, overseeing sales and engineering
divisions as well as 12 manufacturing plants in the U.S. and
Press, who enjoys scuba diving and flying airplanes, joined the
Toyota board as part of an expansion of the board from 25 to 30
members. He joined Toyota in 1970, after leaving Ford.
Toyota, which beat General Motors (GM) in worldwide vehicle
production and sales in the first quarter for the first time ever,
saw its January-March profit rise 9 percent to 440.1 billion yen
GM, which lost US$2 billion last year, made a US$62 million net
profit in the first quarter, but the company still lost an adjusted
US$85 million on its North American operations.
Ford is losing
money, although it reduced the red ink to US$282 million in the
first quarter versus US$1.4 billion in the first three months of
Analysts say it is just a matter of time before Toyota becomes
the world's biggest automaker - a title that technically depends on
total annual vehicle production.
Toyota officials repeatedly play
down the prospect, saying that their goal is to satisfy customers
and sell good cars, not become No 1.