updated 9/6/2007 10:42:55 AM ET 2007-09-06T14:42:55

Chrysler has hired away Jim Press, Toyota' top North American executive, to run its sales and marketing operations, Chrysler LLC announced Thursday.

Press, formerly president and chief operating officer for Toyota in North America and the first non-Japanese member of the Japanese automaker's board of directors, will become Chrysler vice chairman and president.

He joins new Chairman and CEO Robert Nardelli and Tom LaSorda, vice chairman and president, as Chrysler's top management team.

LaSorda will run the company's manufacturing and purchasing operations, while Press will handle sales, marketing and product strategy, said company spokesman Mike Aberlich.

Hiring Press is Chrysler's second major executive announcement since August, when private equity firm Cerberus Capital Management LP took control of 80.1 percent of the company from DaimlerChrysler AG. Cerberus announced Aug. 6 that Nardelli, former head of The Home Depot Inc., would become Chrysler's chairman and CEO.

Press' resignation as president of Toyota Motor Corp.'s North American operations and as senior managing director at Toyota, will be effective Sept. 14, Toyota said.

"Tom LaSorda and I are thrilled that one of the most successful executives in the history of the auto industry has joined our leadership team at the New Chrysler," Nardelli said in a statement.

Toyota said it was naming Shigeru Hayakawa, a Japanese veteran at the company and Toyota managing officer, as the new president of Toyota North America.

"Toyota has been the centerpiece of my life. This was the most difficult decision I have made," Press said in a statement.

The promotion of Press at Toyota, an American who has been with Toyota for 37 years, had been widely seen as furthering the company's effort to bolster its standing as a multinational corporation.

"Jim has played a significant role in strengthening Toyota's presence in the U.S," Toyota President Katsuaki Watanabe said. "I would like to express my heartfelt gratitude to all he has done for Toyota."

Copyright 2007 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


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