Sergio Marchionne is the high-flying and much-quoted president of Fiat and Chrysler. But he isn’t the only Canadian making an impact on the global automotive stage.
After a promotion earlier this year, Ray Tanguay became the highest-ranking non-Japanese executive at Toyota Motor Corporation.
During Toyota’s recall difficulties, he was asked by Toyota’s numero uno executive, president Akio Toyoda, to help draft a Global Vision Business Plan, which would ultimately guide the Toyota mothership back on course.
Tanguay believed he received the invite to craft a plan because he made “the biggest noise” about Toyota losing its way. The gist of his vision was that Toyota’s immense workforce, scattered all over the globe, needed a greater sense of mission and empowerment. To that end, he suggested more local decision-making and direct access to the top decision-makers in Japan.
Toyoda liked Tanguay’s plan so much he immediately added the title of senior managing officer of Toyota Motor Corporation to Tanguay’s already considerable portfolio. There are only three such positions worldwide, and they are just one rung below that of the board of directors.
Currently his two other titles are: Senior Vice President, Toyota Motor North America; and Chairman, Toyota Motor Manufacturing Canada.
The plan is far from his only accomplishment.
He continues to champion more production and research facilities on this continent. He oversaw the growth of Toyota’s Canadian production in Cambridge, Ont., and its evolution into a perennial winner of international quality awards. This made it easy for Toyota to send Lexus RX 350 production there in 2003 — still the only Lexus plant outside of Japan. And when Toyota was looking to open a North American plant to build its RAV4, Tanguay came up with a novel proposal — build the RAV4 plant in nearby Woodstock, as a satellite facility of the Cambridge plant.
Another recent accomplishment: The “house that Ray built” in Woodstock just received confirmation this month, that it will be the first North American Toyota facility to build an electric vehicle. In fact, the RAV EV will be built on the same line as the gasoline-powered RAV4.
Tanguay has French Canadian roots. Silver-haired, tall, and dignified, he reminds one of another charismatic French Canadian leader — Jean Beliveau, the legendary and graceful captain of the Montreal Canadians.
I don’t know if Tanguay ever played hockey. But seeing that he was born and raised in Mattice, a remote town in northern Ontario, I’m betting he did.
And, I’m betting that underneath the controlled persona is someone just like Beliveau, someone with a lot of drive, passion, and competitive fight.