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North American CEO Of Toyota On Becoming A Texan And Why The New Prius Isn't 'Weird'

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Jim Lentz and his wife reloacted to North Texas a year ago.

Toyota’s new U.S. headquarters in Plano won’t be ready until 2017, but its North American CEO has already set up shop in North Texas. Jim Lentz is a 33-year veteran of the company, and he’s putting down roots in Westlake.

Interview Highlights: Jim Lentz ...

... on moving to North Texas: "My wife and I were one of the first 50 to make the move and it's been spectacular. Almost every person that has come to Texas, and there are about 250 as of today, they all say the same thing. That the people are gracious, they're very warming, they love the sense of community. It's been fabulous."

... on choosing North Texas for the North American HQ: "If you look at Toyota, we are actually four separate corporations in the United States. There's a sales organization that's headquartered in California, there's a finance organization in California, there's an engineering and manufacturing organization in Kentucky and then we have a holding company that's in New York. So we needed to get all of our organizations in the same location so that we can continue to make better cars to keep our consumers happy and exceed their expectations. We actually started by looking at the top 100 markets in the U.S. and in typical Toyota fashion, we put together a fairly sophisticated array of criteria. About half of it was business related, what was best for the company, and the other half was really team member or employee related what was best for our team members. When you look at all of those different factors, the Dallas metro came out on top."

... on the new Prius and being called 'weird' in a Wired review: "Well I would probably take exception to 'weird,' it's in the eyes of the beholder. Today's car is about six years old it's not the most aggressively styled and we knew that we had to get more aggressive because styling is more important to people, but at the same time we had to keep that iconic silhouette that we have on the Prius. The car sits a little bit lower, it's a better handling, better driving car, better mileage. ... 'Weird' will not be the first thing that comes to their mind. Modern and progressive, yes."

Courtney Collins has been working as a broadcast journalist since graduating from the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University in 2004. Before coming to KERA in 2011, Courtney worked as a reporter for NPR member station WAMU in Washington D.C. While there she covered daily news and reported for the station’s weekly news magazine, Metro Connection.
Rick Holter was KERA's vice president of news. He oversaw news coverage on all of KERA's platforms – radio, digital and television. Under his leadership, KERA News earned more than 200 local, regional and national awards, including the station's first two national Edward R. Murrow Awards. He and the KERA News staff were also part of NPR's Ebola-coverage team that won a George Foster Peabody Award, broadcasting's highest honor.