Note: This story was updated at 4:48 PM.
Automaker Toyota has promoted American Julie Hamp, the current head of communications for North America, to managing officer. She’ll be the highest ranking woman in Toyota’s 77-year history, according to Bloomberg.
The move is part of a broader push for diversity among Toyota’s executive ranks as part of a restructuring. The company’s leadership culture has been made up mostly of Japanese men. “Toyota has realized that they’re not a Japanese carmaker, they’re a world carmaker,” Edwin Merner, president of Atlantis Investment Research in Tokyo, told Bloomberg. “If they’re going to understand overseas markets and plan, design and build cars, then they have to have people who have a good understanding of those markets.”
Toyota characterized the moves this way in a statement:
The once-untouchable auto firm has had a rough few years. A seemingly unending recall crisis partly dinged the company’s reputation and the global recession hurt sales. But the firm’s fortunes have started to turn around recently.
February sales in the U.S. surged ahead 12.1%, compared to the same month last year. And its Lexus luxury division is making gains against European competitors: Last month marked the fourth straight month of record new Lexus sales, according to the company. Lexus is ranked as the industry’s top brand by Consumer Reports and J. D. Power and Associates.