Sayonara and Kon’nichiwa

BUSINESS SNIPPETS - Marianne Go - The Philippine Star
Sayonara and Kon�nichiwa
Outgoing TMP president Atsuhiro Okamoto (left) and new president Masando Hashimoto.
STAR / File

“Most challenging, most wonderful, most exciting, most valuable, and most meaningful,” was how former Toyota Motor Philippines president Atsuhiro Okamoto described his four-year stint in the Philippines as he gave his farewell speech last Tuesday, Feb. 20, at the Grand Hyatt Hotel during the formal turnover of the TMP presidency to his successor, Masando Hashimoto.

Indeed, Okamoto-san, who came to the Philippines in January 2020, can rightfully claim that his tour of duty in the Philippines was the most challenging and the most exciting, with the normally placid Taal reawakening and seemingly throwing a temper tantrum that saw newly assembled and imported Toyota vehicles at TMP’s Sta. Rosa plant covered in dark black ash.

Taal’s ominous reawakening, true enough, was just a precursor to the deadly COVID-19 pandemic that threw a pall on the global economy and nearly shut down global activity for close to two years.

And yet, TMP chairman Alfred Ty acknowledged in his speech at the turnover ceremony that Okamoto-san still managed to “charge ahead with steadfastness and courage, showing the way for all of Team Toyota, bringing hope where there was confusion – always with a smile and a good word for everyone.”

And through all that, Chairman Ty pointed out, Okamoto-san still managed to launch a total of five new models through the use of online technology. He, likewise, managed to keep the workforce intact, from the office, factory and logistics.

More importantly, Chairman Ty said, Okamoto-san was also instrumental in helping TMP, along with the Philippine government’s help, to pitch for the local assembly of the new Tamaraw in TMP’s Sta. Rosa plant.

But apart from Team Toyota, Okamoto san has also endeared himself to the Philippine media, particularly, the motoring press who have shared numerous launches, test drives, golf tournaments and other activities with him, the last being the resumption of the bi-annual Japan Motor Show in October last year, but renamed the Japan Mobility Show.

It was a fitting farewell, perhaps even then, with a bucket list incentive trip for Team Toyota and its top motor vehicle dealers to Machu Picchu, Peru and then for a victory celebration in Tokyo to welcome a return to normal, Toyota motor vehicles sales attesting to the recovery.

By Christmas last year, Okamoto-san had already informed the motoring press of his impending departure. With his then forthcoming departure, he chose to spend the time left in the Philippines by bonding with Chairman Ty playing golf, which perhaps was also the training for the chairman to win the recent championship at the Manila Golf for the B category.

In a brief interview before the turnover ceremony, Okamoto san explained that his new role would entail a move back to Japan where he will be taking on a more global role of developing the value chain business of the Toyota Group. The value chain, according to Okamoto san, “includes parts, accessories, finance, insurance, like that.”

Members of the Toyota Dealers Association, according to former president Rene So, also expressed their appreciation for Okamoto-san by tendering a farewell dinner for him.

Sayonara, Okamoto-san.

Kon’nichiwa Hashimoto-san

TMP’s newly installed president is already a familiar face as he was already the senior vice president for marketing, starting last year, under Okamoto.

He further endeared himself to members of media early this year, during TMP’s media thanksgiving in January, when he participated in a surprise 1980s themed musical number where he performed Michael Jackson’s Thriller as the zombie. He later on revealed that he is a Michael Jackson fan and knows almost all of Jackson’s well-known songs.

Hashimoto revealed that he would be turning only 47 years in April this year and would be the youngest president in TMP’s history. He therefore committed “to become the most Genba-oriented guy, turning my youth into strength, to give everything I’ve got.”

But in an interview before the turnover ceremony, Hashimoto was all business already, revealing one of his immediate goals.

According to the new TMP president, Toyota Motors Philippines is hoping to collaborate with its closest competitor in the market, Mitsubishi Motors Philippines, to help “boost” the Philippine car manufacturing industry which currently has only two participants engaged in the local production of completely knocked down (CKD) packs.

According to Hashimoto, the collaboration with Mitsubishi could involve parts and materials that are part of the production process and thus develop synergy. At the same time, Hashimoto also welcomes the possible entry of other foreign car manufacturers that may be interested in doing local car production.

“We are quite welcoming. More players, more options for the end users. That’s better for the Philippines,” Hashimoto said.

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