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Yokohama shuffles executives

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FULLERTON, Calif.—Gearing up for an “aggressive” growth plan in North America, Yokohama Rubber Co. Ltd. (YRC) has made several key changes in the executive ranks of its North American business units and created a separate sales company in Mexico.

The executive changes start at the top, with Hikomitsu Noji, president of Tokyo-based YRC, taking over as president and CEO of Yokohama Tire Corp. (YTC) and CEO of Yokohama Corp. of North America.

He replaces Yasushi Tanaka, who returns to Japan after just 10 months as head of YTC to become assistant to the president of YRC's tire business.

“Yokohama is fully committed to investing resources in the North American marketplace,” YRC Chairman and CEO Tadanobu Nagumo said, “and we are confident that this vital market will be served most effectively with the key management structure we have put in place.”

Mr. Noji, 53 and a 21-year YRC veteran, has been president and representative director of YRC since June 2011—roles he retains. Other assignments have included chief director of global tire production, manager of the Mishima, Japan, plant, and president of Yokohama Tire Philippines Inc.

He will continue to be based in Tokyo.

In addition, YRC said YTC Chief Operating Officer Takayuki Hamaya will be in charge of YTC's day-to-day operations, including strategy development, corporate planning and driving business performance.

Yokohama also recently named former YTC President and CEO Norio Karashima to be executive adviser to YTC management at the company's Fullerton headquarters.

Yokohama did not quantify what it means by “aggressive” growth for North America, but the company has in the past spelled out its growth goals globally as part of its Grand Design 100 medium-term forecast through 2017. That document calls for global sales of $12.5 billion by 2017, up from $7 billion last year, and a 10-percent operating ratio.

Sales in North America last year hit $1.47 billion, a 3- to 4-percent improvement over 2011. North America is YRC's single largest sales market outside of Japan, representing about one-fifth of global sales, although growth over the past several years has been minimal.

To support growth in North America, Yokohama is expanding capacities at its car and light truck tire plants in Salem, Va., and Clark Enterprise Zone, Phillippines, the latter of which has been designated a primary American supply source.

Also tying into YRC's growth plans for North America is the establishment of Yokohama Tire Mexico S. de R.L. de C.V. (YMX) in Silao, Mexico, to service customers in what the firm called “one of the fastest-growing markets” in North America and one “critical” to its plans for the region.

YRC named Gary Nash, previously vice president of YTC, president of the new subsidiary, which is expected to begin operating in May and is evaluating “optimal” locations for a warehouse expected to in operation before year-end.

The company will be active in building replacement business for its consumer, truck and OTR tire segments by providing ample products, expedited service and just-in-time delivery.

The latter of these, especially, will generate cost efficiencies for YMX's customers, which will help strengthen their profitability further, according to YTC.

Other executive changes, which YTC said are in line with the firm's recent efforts to become a “more effective business partner,” include:

c Fred Koplin—to senior director, consumer sales, from director, marketing communications. Mr. Koplin joined YTC in 2006 as director of marketing.

c Rick Phillips—to senior director, commercial and OTR sales, from director, commercial sales.

c Andrew Briggs—to director, marketing communications and product planning, from director, product planning and motorsports. Mr. Briggs' responsibilities will include marketing communications, consumer and commercial product planning; he will continue to oversee motorsports.

c Lawrence Kull—to director, tire business planning, from national sales manager, consumer division. Mr. Kull will oversee consumer and commercial sales planning, market analysis, sales strategy development and business performance measurement. He will continue as the national account manager for Discount Tire/America's Tire.

These changes coincide with the departure of Dan King, senior vice president of sales and marketing, who left YTC after nearly 25 years to become president of independent tire wholesaler Tire's Warehouse Inc., of Corona, Calif.

Additionally, Tim Easter, YTC's director of OTR sales and marketing, will oversee the OTR department's day-to-day operations in the wake of Mr. Nash's appointment to head up Yokohama Tire Mexico. Mr. Easter will report to Mr. Phillips.
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