Wil James is the key driver to making sure that Toyota builds reliable vehicles in North America. James oversees what some would consider a small city, Toyota’s largest automotive assembly plant in North America. James, who serves as president of Toyota Motor Manufacturing in Georgetown, Kentucky, is the first and only African American to serve in this role for the Japanese automaker. Ironically, when taking a snapshot of the entire auto industry, only a handful of African Americans have served in the role of plant manager.
James’ Kentucky assembly plant is currently responsible for building America’s best-selling car, the Toyota Camry, the brand’s flagship vehicle, the Avalon, and the Venza, which is the brand’s five-passenger car-based crossover. Toyota’s quality reputation with these key vehicles literally rides on the shoulders of James.
Soon James will be taking on the awesome responsibility of building the first Lexus product in an American plant, one of the luxury brand’s volume sales leaders, the ES 350. Had James plant not maintained the level of quality that the Japanese expect, his plant would have never been awarded such an assignment to produce the prestigious Lexus. While critics have questioned if the high standards of quality can be maintained in America just as they have outside of America, James answers this question, while also talking about his career, success and the importance of mentoring in this exclusive one-on-one video interview.
Jeff Fortson is an auto analyst and the editor of JeffCars.com, an education car-buying website designed for women and minorities.