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Gold Medallion

2006

Jim Press

Swimmer

President and Chief Operating Officer of Toyota Motor Sales

 

Born on the California coast, he developed a love for the water at an early age. His family moved to Kansas when he was seven to work for his uncle’s car dealership. He began swimming competitively at the age of nine, creating a love affair with the water that has remained with him throughout every phase of his life.

 

In his high school, he was a member of the swim team. He continued swimming at Kansas State College where he obtained a degree in marketing. Soon after, Ford Motor Company hired him. Three years later he followed his boss to Toyota. He enjoyed working for what was then, a smaller car company because he would have the opportunity to work different jobs. He envisioned himself running a dealership in his future.

 

Few would have predicted that some thirty years later, Jim Press would become the President and Chief Operating Officer of Toyota Motor Sales (TMS) USA or that Toyota would gain over 11% of the market share in North America. Fortune Magazine refers to Jim as “Toyota’s Secret Weapon” stating that he “arguably has as much influence over the course of the American auto industry as anyone else alive.”

 

Since 1970, Jim has worked a wide variety of positions in advertising, service, marketing, product planning, market representa-tion and distribution departments. Jim gets inside the minds of the American car buyer, distills what he’s learned and interprets the results for the product planners and engineers in Japan. He has over all responsibility for sales, marketing and distribution for Toyota, Scion and Lexus products in the United States. He is the first American President of TMS. ISHOF's 1994 Gold Medallion recipient, Jim Moran, has built JM Lexus of the Southeast and JM Family Enterprises, Inc. into the largest Lexus distributorship in the United States. Press has been instrumental in Toyota’s successful entry into the Hybrid market with the Prius and new entry-level Scion, redesigned the Sienna minivan and is currently carefully assessing the transition to fuel cell technology.

 

Despite his success, Press maintains an unusual demeanor for an automobile executive. He is described as soft-spoken, thoughtful, extremely intelligent and humble. He has diplomatically proven himself as one who understands the business of cars and American psyche enabling him to predict trends, providing an important voice of reason and leadership on the board of directors. Toyota’s honorary chairman, Dr. Shoichiro Toyoda, describes Press as an instrumental, “force of change”.

 

Press was the first international automotive executive elected to chair the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, the industry’s top trade group. He has received the “Distinguished Service Citation Award” from the Automotive Hall of Fame and has been named an industry “All-Star” leader by both Automotive News and Automobile Magazine.

 

At 5:30 every morning, Press can be found swimming laps. He arrives a this office soon after and doesn’t head home until 9 p.m. The weekends are often spent competing in triathlons and long-distance ocean races. Jim belongs to both the Los Angeles and Peninsula Masters swim teams. He and his wife Linda reside in Rolling Hills, CA and have four children.

 

While it is rumored that gasoline runs through his veins, perhaps it is the fuel that drives his passion for swimming. Whatever the reason, cars and swimming are sure to remain intertwined in the fabric of his life.

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