Toyota reorganization announcement is near

Toyota Motor Corp. might announce a restructuring of its U.S. operations as early as Friday, The Wall Street Journal has reported.

The plan, according to unidentified sources, would bring the various Toyota business units, including sales, manufacturing and engineering, under one U.S.-based executive. Currently, the heads of those units report to superiors in Japan.

The new position would be based in New York, where Toyota has primarily investor relations and government-affairs workers, the report said.

The newspaper said a former senior Toyota executive, Yoshi Inaba, has been asked to fill the U.S. role. Inaba was a key figure in the company's quick growth in recent years in the United States.

Toyota announced Thursday that Inaba will return to a U.S. position but has not disclosed what role.

Observers doubt the move, if made, would affect the rank-and-file employees of Toyota, including the 7,000 full-time workers at its largest North American plant in Georgetown.

The automaker also employs around 1,300 in Northern Kentucky, where the headquarters are located for its North American manufacturing operations, dubbed Toyota Motor Engineering & Manufacturing.

Spokeswoman Tania Blersch said, "There are no plans to move TEMA from Erlanger, and honestly, we don't anticipate any major impact to our Erlanger operations."

Haig Stoddard, an automotive analyst for IHS Global Insight, said the restructuring probably means "Toyota just decided on a global basis they need to take a look at their overall structure."

"I think it could mean anything at this point," he said of any impact of the rumored plan. "It kind of just depends on what he sees when he gets in here and starts taking a good look at things."

The move would come as Toyota has struggled recently amid the recession. The company reported its first annual loss this year since 1950.

It has idled its U.S. manufacturing lines frequently over the past several months to reduce inventories as sales have plummeted. It also announced cuts earlier this year to executive compensation as well as lower bonuses for rank-and-file employees.

"I suspect part of what's going on at least in North America is Toyota probably got a little ahead of themselves in increasing capacity even before things went downhill," Stoddard said, pointing out the company's decision to delay construction on its Mississippi plant. "I suspect North America may be more of an acute problem than other regions of the world for them."