Toyota strengthens Subaru ties, shifts U.S. plant chiefs


TOKYO — Toyota last week tightened ties with a former U.S. manufacturing partner and said it is changing some of its U.S. manufacturing leadership.

Toyota and Subaru said they will work on a second generation of their shared rear-wheel-drive sporty coupe and collaborate more closely on other projects under a new agreement that will raise Toyota’s stake in the smaller Japanese automaker to 20 percent.

Under the accord, Subaru will take a small stake in Toyota.

Toyota already owns 17 percent of Subaru, while the smaller partner has no stake in Toyota.

The companies said they would collaborate more closely on a range of next-generation technologies, including connectivity, autonomous driving and electrification systems.

Toyota President Akio Toyoda said teaming up on technologies such as sports cars and all-wheel-drive vehicles will help the companies keep their cars fun to drive in an age of automated driving.

“During this once-in-a-century period of profound transformation, driving enjoyment will remain an inherent part of automobiles and is something that I think we must continue to strongly preserve,” Toyoda said in a news release Friday, Sept. 27.

Among the plans, Toyota will expand its hybrid drivetrain systems to more Subaru vehicles. It now supplies the drivetrain for the Subaru Crosstrek Hybrid.

In the U.S., Toyota is losing one leading woman — and replacing her with another.

Millie Marshall, Toyota Motor Corp.’s first female plant president, will retire Nov. 1 as head of the automaker’s Princeton, Ind., factory that builds the Highlander, Highlander Hybrid, Sienna and Sequoia, Toyota Motor North America said.

Marshall, 59, started with Toyota in 1991 as an information systems specialist at the automaker’s Georgetown, Ky., plant. In January 2014, she became the first woman to lead a Toyota plant when she was named president of Toyota Motor Manufacturing West Virginia, the automaker’s transmission and engine factory in Buffalo, W. Va. Since 2016, Marshall has been president of Toyota Motor Manufacturing Indiana.

Marshall will be succeeded by Leah Curry, a 22-year Toyota veteran who most recently was head of the West Virginia plant. Previously, Curry was vice president of the Indiana factory. In 2015, Marshall and Curry were named to Automotive News’ list of 100 Leading Women in the North American Auto Industry.

Curry, 58, will take over as head of Toyota Motor Manufacturing Indiana effective Tuesday, Oct. 1, and will be succeeded at the West Virginia plant by Srini Matam, 54, who has been with the automaker for 19 years, most recently as general manager of the drivetrain division at the West Virginia factory, Toyota said.

Larry P. Vellequette contributed to this report.

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