Mike Stevens | Jun 26, 2009

TUESDAY SAW THE swearing in of new Toyota president Akio Toyoda - grandson of the company's founder - and in a speech to the number one carmaker's shareholders, Mr Toyoda acknowledged the trials the manufacturer is facing.

"The new Toyota sets sail in very stormy waters," Mr Toyoda said. "But right now we're working at full speed to cut costs and jump-start sales with the support of various government incentives being rolled out.

We want to do everything possible to avoid a third consecutive year of losses."

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Leading by example, Mr Toyoda said he would take a 30 percent pay cut in his first year as President.

Acknowledging that the company has expanded its operations too quickly in recent years, Mr Toyoda said that the manufacturer's goal of cutting AU$10.3 billion in fixed costs by the end of the Japanese fiscal year is only part of the larger plan and that a renewed focus on product will increase the brand's appeal.

As part of its plan to contain costs, Toyota is aiming to position itself so that it can remain profitable at 70 percent production capacity, while standing by its promise to keep its plants open.

Mr Toyoda plans to restructure the company's top management so that four Vice Presidents oversee different regions of the market. This is to bring greater focus to product and regional specialisation while also allowing greater autonomy in the design, production and market decisions for those individual regions.

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Mr Toyoda said that he expects the North American market to rebound, but that the company will reconsider its approach to larger cars in the face of a shrinking large car segment.

In style-conscious Europe, the company plans to build cars that are more attractive and appealing to buyers, while the Japanese market will see a special marketing department setup to explore how best to address the needs and concerns of its customers.

Mr Toyoda wants the company to explore the emotional connection between owners and their cars, rather than focusing its resources on simply selling more cars.

"Rather than asking, 'How many cars will we sell?' or, 'How much money will we make by selling these cars?' we need to ask ourselves, 'What kind of cars will make people happy?' as well as, 'What pricing will attract them in each region?' Then we must make those cars," Mr Toyoda said.

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