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Ex-GM exec joins Toyota board in Japan


– Mark Hogan, a former General Motors Co. executive tapped to join the Toyota board, sees his appointment as a sign of change at the Japanese automaker and hopes he’ll play a role in the company becoming less insular and quicker in decision making.

Hogan’s appointment, announced in March and approved by shareholders last month, is the first time in Toyota’s 76-year history that it has appointed a director from outside the company.

His arrival underlines efforts at Toyota Motor Corp. under President Akio Toyoda to become more international, transparent and nimble in regional markets, as it recovers from recent difficult years including a massive recall fiasco in the U.S.

“I give Akio a lot of credit for having the leadership to do that,” he said Tuesday at Toyota’s Nagoya office.

“I see my role as listening to global voices outside of Japan and sharing insights that will help Toyota respond more quickly to changes in society,” Hogan said.

When asked whether he would have advised Toyota do anything differently during the recall crisis in the U.S. five years ago, Hogan stressed recall problems were not unique to Toyota but spanned the entire auto industry in recent decades.

He said the lesson learned for Toyota was that a crisis needs a speedy response.

Hogan, an American, joined GM in 1973, and became group vice president in 2002. He worked with Toyoda more than a decade ago at New United Motor Manufacturing, a California auto plant jointly run by Toyota and GM. During an hour-long news conference, his first as a board member, 62-year-old Hogan stressed his friendship with Toyoda, often referring to him as Akio. He said they meet every month to share ideas.

Issei Takahashi, auto analyst with Credit Suisse, said having someone close to GM on Toyota’s board may help it lobby against any protectionist efforts by U.S. automakers.

Japan is planning to join the “Trans-Pacific Partnership,” an Asia-Pacific trade pact, a move that is likely to help Toyota and other Japanese exporters in the U.S.

Some officials in the U.S. auto industry are already crying foul, noting American cars make up only a tiny portion of the Japanese market.

“Having someone on the team with an ‘in’ with the American auto industry could work as a plus for Toyota,” Takahashi said.