Toyota has promoted from within to find a new CEO for its North American operations

Toyota Motor Corporation has announced an important mix-up in its top executive positions by promoting one of its highest-ranking American executives even higher.

Former Toyota Motor Sales president and COO Jim Lentz has been promoted to the role of CEO of the automaker's North American operations, which makes him the first American to hold the position. The decision marks a major, highly visible shift for Toyota's international operations. In the past, Toyota has looked at its regional offices as divisions controlled by the home office in Japan, but Lentz's promotion comes in the wake of a massive internal restructuring designed, in part, to make the company's North American operations more autonomous.

You may recall Lentz's name due to his role as the main liaison for Toyota during Congressional hearings regarding Toyota's alleged unintended acceleration cases.

Other key changes include naming Shigeki Terashi as president and COO of Toyota Motor North America starting with the first of next month. Terashi will continue to serve in his existing role as president of Toyota Motor Engineering and Manufacturing in North America in addition to his new responsibilities.

Yoshi Inaba, who currently serves as COO of TMA, will now serve on the North American Executive Committee at Toyota, as well as move back to TMS, USA, to serve as chairman of TMS.