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Toyota India chief set to go as term nears end

Toyota India chief set to go as term nears end
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First Published: Tue, Jan 08 2008. 12 01 AM IST

Mixed bag: Atsushi Toyoshima took over as the second Indian head for Toyota in January 2003. (Photo: Ramesh Pathania/ Mint)
Mixed bag: Atsushi Toyoshima took over as the second Indian head for Toyota in January 2003. (Photo: Ramesh Pathania/ Mint)
Updated: Tue, Jan 08 2008. 12 01 AM IST
Bangalore: Atsushi Toyoshima, the managing director of Toyota Kirloskar Motor Pvt. Ltd(TKM), the Indian arm of the world’s second largest car maker Toyota Motor Corp.(TMC), is set to step down at the end of his five-year term.
His successor is expected to be announced later this month in Tokyo, the headquarters of the Japanese company, a person familiar with the development said.
A Toyota spokesperson said he was not aware of the change in management and that Toyoshima, who was not immediately available for comment, would be the only person authorized to speak on the move.
Mixed bag: Atsushi Toyoshima took over as the second Indian head for Toyota in January 2003. (Photo: Ramesh Pathania/ Mint)
Toyoshima’s tenure has been a mixed bag. When he took over in January 2003 as the second India head for Toyota, which entered the country in 1997, he phased out the popular Qualis, a sports utility vehicle, or SUV, which was often used as a fleet car, and launched the larger Innova to replace it.
Despite its higher price tag, the Innova, which costs at least Rs50,000 more than the Qualis, has sold 115,000 units since its launch in February 2005.
However, in the sedan segment, Toyota’s Corolla has faced stiff competition from rival Honda Motor Co. Ltd’s Civic. In the 18 months since the Civic’s launch, Toyota’s sedan sales (which includes the Corolla and Camry models) have dipped from an average of 748 per month to around 628.
Toyota has also said it wants to enter the country’s largest selling car segment, the small car, in a bid to boost volumes. However, while it has commissioned a feasibility study, the results haven’t been made public.
The company’s Japanese rival Suzuki Motor Corp. dominates India’s car market on account of the success of its small cars such as the Alto and the Maruti 800, which it has been selling for several years.
In 2005, the Karnataka government cleared a Rs1,147 crore proposal of Toyota to build a small car plant with an annual capacity of 150,000 units. Toyoshima has developed the base by building a network of component makers for the small car project.
Toyoshima’s tenure will also be remembered for the firm way in which he dealt with labour trouble. In January 2006, Toyota declared a lockout at the factory in Bidadi after workers went on a flash strike over the suspension of three union members for past misconduct.
Production resumed a fortnight later after workers returned to build vehicles by signing a “good conduct” bond that was linked to productivity.
That compares with a similar workers’ strike at Honda’s two-wheeler plant in Manesar, near New Delhi, where industrial action throttled production for several weeks and raised concerns about future investments in India.
TMC holds an 89% stake in TKM, with the remaining equity held by the Kirloskar Group of Companies. The joint venture has invested Rs1,500 crore in its factory, which employs nearly 2,400 people. The plant started production in December 1999 and has a capacity of producing 60,000 units annually of Corolla and Innova models.
The only other brand that it sells in India, the Camry, a high-end sedan, is brought in as a fully-built unit, upping its cost to almost Rs20 lakh because of stiff import duties.
Toyota has, in the past, indicated that it aims for a 10% share of the country’s car market by 2010.
Toyoshima’s predecessor Sachio Yamazaki moved to the company’s Asian affairs department in Japan at the end of his tenure.
Ravi Krishnan in New Delhi contributed to this story.
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First Published: Tue, Jan 08 2008. 12 01 AM IST