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Toyota shuffles its top deck

Above board: Max Yasuda has accepted the role of Toyota Australia’s chairman of the board, while Dave Buttner takes over as president.

Buttner takes over as Toyota Oz president as Yasuda moves to chairman of the board

2 Apr 2014

TOYOTA Australia has announced a reshuffle of its most senior management positions, with current president and chief executive officer Max Yasuda accepting a newly created role of chairman of the board.

Mr Yasuda’s shift to the board means current executive vice president and chief operating officer Dave Buttner slips into the role of president on the same day.

As a part of Mr Yasuda’s new role – effective May 1, 2014 – he will oversee the board or directors as well as act as an adviser to Toyota Australia’s leadership team.

Toyota said in a statement that Mr Yasuda’s appointment will “strengthen Toyota Australia's management group” as the Japanese-owned car-maker starts winding down its local manufacturing operation and transitions into a sales and distribution company by the end of 2017.

Mr Buttner’s new role means he is responsible for all Toyota Australia operations, including managing the shift from local manufacturer to a national sales and distribution company.

The appointment of Mr Buttner to the role marks the first non-Japanese president of Toyota’s Australian arm since John Conomos left the role in 2006 to take up the position of chairman emeritus and policy adviser for the company.

Toyota Australia media and external affairs manager Beck Angel said the company had no plans to appoint a new executive vice president to replace Mr Buttner.

Mr Buttner said he intends to do everything he can to support Toyota’s 3900 employees, while ensuring that the company retains its crown as Australia’s most popular automotive brand.

“Our focus during the next few years is to provide ongoing support to all of our employees as we transition to a sales and distribution company,” he said.

“While doing this, we also need to ensure that we continue to deliver high quality and exciting new cars for our customers so that Toyota remains the number one automotive brand in Australia.”

Prior to accepting his previous role of executive vice president and COO at the start of 2013, Mr Buttner held the position of senior executive director of sales and marketing.

Since he started with Toyota in 1987, Mr Buttner has held roles in manufacturing, quality administration, purchasing, production control and production engineering.

Mr Yasuda started his career with Toyota in his home country of Japan in 1972, moving on to key roles including the chairman and CEO of Toyota France before taking the role of president and CEO of Toyota Australia in 2007.

Mr Yasuda said his new position came at a challenging time for the company, but said it gave him an opportunity to support the workers and provide advice when required.

“The next few years will be a turning point for the company as we work hard to support our employees and shape our future direction,” he said.

“The new role will allow me to provide more independent advice and support the decision making processes of the board.”

Toyota confirmed in February this year that it would cease manufacturing in Australia in 2017 after 50 years of local operations, leaving 2500 factory workers jobless.

The announcement came as little surprise following Ford and Holden’s decision to quit local manufacturing in 2016 and 2017 respectively.

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