Former Toyota USA President Jim Press Never Owned A Toyota Or Lexus

The Chrysler media blog's got an interview with the new Vice-Chairman of "The New Chrysler," Jim Press. Much of it's a nice little flufferview of the guy who until being snagged by Cerberus, spent thirty years at Toyota, eventually becoming President of Toyota USA and the only non-Japanese ToMoCo board member. Still, at the end of the interview was a little blurb that stood out as shockingly note-worthy:

"Press has always loved cars. He built his first go-cart at age seven, got his first car when he was 12. At age 13, he started washing cars at his family's dealership in Kansas. But he said he never bought a Toyota or Lexus. The only vehicle he owns is a Yamaha motorcycle. But he'll soon be driving Chrysler vehicles."
Are you kidding us — the guy worked for Toyota for over 30 years and never once bought one of the vehicles he sold? We're stunned. Seriously, stunned. Full verbiage of the post below the jump.
Press Sees Strength in Dealers, Investment in Future from Cerberus

Posted Sep 27, 2007, 10:34 AM by Mike Ellis

He's been on the job for less than a week, but brings a wealth of automotive experience to Chrysler. So what does Jim Press, the new Vice Chairman and President, think needs to change at Chrysler?

Ask the Chrysler workers and dealers - they already know what changes need to be made, he said in a candid interview with the TheFirehouse.

"One of the things I've learned over the years is the talent in the organization doesn't rest wherever the executive floor might be," he said on Wednesday. "What we need to do is create the atmosphere and the environment for people to realize and do what they need to do to take care of the customer."

"I don't have any playbook, I don't have any secret codes, and there's no silver bullet here. It's about empowering the organization, driving decision making closer to the level where they know what needs to be done, closer to the customer."

Press has already visited three Chrysler dealerships during his first four days on the job, and he plans to visit many more. Chrysler dealers have weathered good times and bad, they have more seniority than Chrysler management, and nobody knows more about how to sell cars.

The veteran dealers and the strong workforce are some of the reasons he joined Chrysler from Toyota, Press said.

"I have a saying and that is the strongest steel comes from the hottest fire, and there's been a lot of fire here and there's a lot of strength," he said.

When asked why he is so sure that Chrysler will gain market share in the future, he said that Chrysler vehicle lineup gives him confidence.

"The bones of our products are really strong. They're emotional, they're fun, they're exciting. They have an appeal that other products don't have. And they have good integrity."

Chrysler's competitors are growing fiercer, he said, but "they're starting to face a little bit of a headwind themselves, and I think that opens the door for us," he said. "We're nimble. We have new ownership. Our new ownership has empowered us to do things right. We don't have a lot of constraints that other companies do. We can be nimble, we can be fast, we can be flexible."

The foresight and the capital of parent Cerberus Capital Management gives Chrysler a great advantage, he said.

"We have been given the opportunity to earmark a ton of money for development of advanced products," he said. "Things that are really necessary to have a strong foundation for the future are being put in place. And one of them is product development of advanced technology."

Another reason for optimism is the opportunity to expand the Chrysler, Jeep and Dodge brands outside the United States, he said.

"If you look at the global auto market, do you know that we're adding a 100,000 cars a day to the planet. And someone else is selling all those vehicles outside the United States, and we ought to get our share, especially if we can get our 10 or 11 percent share here outside," he said.

Press has always loved cars. He built his first go-cart at age seven, got his first car when he was 12. At age 13, he started washing cars at his family's dealership in Kansas. But he said he never bought a Toyota or Lexus. The only vehicle he owns is a Yamaha motorcycle. But he'll soon be driving Chrysler vehicles.