Toyota Canada head Ray Tanguay retires


Tanguay will close his office door for the last time on March 31 and put the roar of the production lines behind him.

Those are the production lines that the head of Toyota Motor Manufacturing Canada and Toyota Canada Inc. helped grow.

When he took over in 1991, 1,000 workers turned out 68,000 Corollas a year at THMMC’s Cambridge, Ont., plant. Today, 8,000 workers produce 579,000 vehicles including the venerable Corolla as well as Matrix, Lexus and Rav4 vehicles at the automaker's Cambridge and Woodstock, Ont., plants.

His record shines with achievements. He convinced Toyota of Japan to let the Cambridge plant become the first plant outside Japan to produce the Lexus in 2002.

“This was a huge vote of confidence,” he recalled.

Another vote of confidence came when Toyota of Japan let TMMC add the Woodstock plant in 2008.

When dignitaries cut the ribbon, the Ontario economy was limping along in the depths of a world recession.

“We were practically the only place in the world that was hiring in the middle of that downturn,” he said.

Born in Northern Ontario, Tanguay, an engineer, joined the automaker after a 19-year career in electronics manufacturing with Electrohome and Philips.

Toyota “wanted someone who had leadership skills and was able to manage a large organization and had the ability to adapt,” he said.

In turn, he loved the Toyota culture and the long-term vision of Japanese management.

 That is not to say all was clear sailing. Toyota suffered a major recall crisis in 2010 and a catastrophic earthquake in Japan levelled parts plants there in 2011, causing severe parts shortages and lost production.

But workers at the Cambridge and Woodstock plants kept their jobs despite the downtime.

When the production lines fell silent, workers volunteered in the community and used the time off to improve their education and skills.

“When the business came back, we were stronger than ever before,” Tanguay said.

In the past two years, manufacturing has made a comeback and demand is “extremely high … The future is bright,” he said.

With files from the Waterloo Region Record.