Toyota Realigning Marketing by Product, Rather Than Discipline

Automaker Seeks to Keep Pace With Changing Times

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Toyota Division is overhauling its U.S. marketing operations and will require 80 employees to reapply for newly created positions or take a voluntary separation from the automaker.

As part of the changes, employee roles and responsibilities are being redefined to be more "integrated, flexible and efficient," Toyota, whose U.S. operations have 6,100 employees, said in a statement late Thursday.

Jack Hollis
Jack Hollis

The automaker said the changes were necessary "in order to meet our future business needs, and support our dealers and guests more effectively."

There likely will be no net reduction in employees, said Jack Hollis, VP-marketing for the Toyota division.

In fact, the company's marketing ranks will likely grow in the near future. But because the operating structure of the department is changing, some current employees might not have skill sets that match the new organization.

The new marketing department will now have vertical teams organized by product, rather than by discipline, Mr. Hollis said.

"My desire was to have more of a brand focus on every vehicle, where every product team was in charge, from strategy and launch, through life cycle to minor changes," Mr. Hollis said in an interview.

Under the new organization, each product -- Camry, Tundra, Highlander and others -- will have representatives for branding, product training, social media, digital marketing, product marketing and marketing communications, Mr. Hollis said.

The new organization is expected to be in place by May 1. It affects only the Toyota brand; Lexus and Scion are not involved in the change, Mr. Hollis said.

"We are building a more flexible and dynamic structure," Hollis said. "We're going to have a quicker ability to take a priority and back it up with action."

Late last year, the automaker announced it would be aligning its disparate multicultural marketing agencies into a new team dubbed "Total Toyota" or T2.

Mr. Hollis said some marketing functions -- incentives, motorsports and engagement marketing -- will remain autonomous.

"We looked at all of our marketing functions and which ones are prioritized, based on the competitive nature of the industry. We looked at how to make ourselves more useful from an efficiency standpoint," Hollis said. "We want to realign for today's market, with more emphasis on analytics and big data use. We are spending more time on digital, social and mobile. We need to focus more on the elements our guests find important."

As a result of the changes, affected marketing employees have three choices:

  • Apply for one of the new marketing positions.
  • Apply for a job elsewhere within Toyota Motor Sales or Toyota Financial Services.
  • Apply for a voluntary separation agreement.

Toyota declined to disclose details of the voluntary separation agreement but said it is "a generous package."

"I don't expect many to take it, but because we are affecting 80 jobs, we wanted to give people a chance to reevaluate their career," Mr. Hollis said. "I wanted to make it available to everyone whose jobs are being affected. Most of them are going to have skill sets that fill the new reporting structure."

--Mark Rechtin is a reporter for Automotive News

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