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Toyota president says product lineup under review

AKIO Toyoda promised a nimbler Toyota that will be more responsive to regional needs in his first public appearance as head of the Japanese automaker his grandfather founded.

He said the company's entire product lineup will be reviewed to better focus its offerings to each global region.

Toyoda, 53, one of youngest presidents in Toyota's history, said he will put customers and the rank-and-file first to steer the world's biggest automaker out of its worst crisis since being founded.

"This ship is setting sail in a storm," he told reporters at a Tokyo showroom. "We are making our start from the very bottom."

Executive vice presidents will each oversee a global region - North America, Europe, Japan and emerging markets- to answer changing consumer needs, Toyoda said.

He said Toyota will focus on some auto model sectors aggressively, while pulling out of others, depending on the region.

He did not give details, but said hybrid technology, seen in the success of the third-generation Prius, which has been snapped up since going on sale last month, was an example of a Toyota strength.

Toyoda, who assumed the top post after approval from shareholders on Tuesday, is Toyota's first president from the founding family in 14 years.

He said the basic principles of Toyota and his family include contributing to society, creating jobs and paying taxes.

He acknowledged he was frustrated that Toyota has not fulfilled those aims well recently, and vowed to do his utmost to return the company to profit.

The global auto slump has battered Toyota, which lost 436.94 billion yen (US$4.4 billion) in the fiscal year ended March, its worst loss since being founded in 1937. Toyota, spelled with a "t'' unlike the family name, is expecting even more red ink this fiscal year.


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