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Fri, Apr 13, 2007 - Page 10 News List

Toyota appoints foreign director

SAFETY MEASURES Company adviser Hiroshi Okuda said last month that adding a non-Japanese board member could help Toyota avoid a backlash in the US

AP , TOKYO

Toyota named a non-Japanese to its board of directors for the first time yesterday, appointing US businessman James Press, the Japanese automaker's president of North American operations.

The move is the latest step in Toyota Motor Corp's efforts to become more international as its business reach grows increasingly global.

PENDING APPROVAL

The changes, announced along with the appointment of eight new Japanese to the board of directors, will take effect pending shareholders approval in June, the company said in a statement.

Press, 60, president of Toyota Motor North America Inc since June 2005, also was promoted to senior managing director from managing officer in the board.

Press joined Toyota Motor Sales in the US in 1970, after two years at Ford Motor Co.

Last month, Hiroshi Okuda, the former president of Toyota and now adviser, said he was worried about a possible backlash over the surge in Toyota vehicle sales in the US at a time when US automakers are ailing.

AVERTING A BACKLASH

Okuda pointed to the addition of a foreign board member, as well as the increasing foreign ownership of the company, as a good way for Toyota to demonstrate that it was international and to avert any possible backlash.

Up to now, Toyota's 25-member board was all Japanese.

The number of board members was increased to 30 as part of yesterday's changes.

Toyota has been boosting market share in the US recently, hitting 16 percent last month, behind General Motors Corp, with 22 percent, and Ford, with 17 percent.

Toyota is now exporting nearly half the vehicles it sells from Japan.

Last year, that percentage was at 46 percent, up from about 38 percent in 2005 because of a surge in US demand and the inability of US factories to keep up with demand.

GENERAL MOTORS

General Motors Corp lost US$10.4 billion in 2005 but underwent massive restructuring and brought its losses down to US$2 billion last year.

Ford Motor Co lost US$12.7 billion last year, while DaimlerChrysler has decided to put up money-losing Chrysler for sale.

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