In July 2010, Wil James became the seventh president of Toyota Motor Manufacturing, Kentucky, Inc. As such, he leads Toyota's largest automotive manufacturing plant in North America, while also championing quality initiatives for Toyota’s fourteen North American manufacturing operations.
James is the first African-American to serve as president of Toyota’s Kentucky plant, which manufactures the Camry, America’s best-selling car, and was recently named the new home of the first U.S.-produced Lexus.
James’ career with Toyota began in 1987, supervising a team of about 20 people. He has since served in multiple leadership roles within Toyota’s network of manufacturing operations across the United States, including senior vice president of Toyota’s vehicle plant in Indiana from 2008 to 2010 and prior to that, president of the automaker’s Long Beach, California subsidiary plant, which produces vehicle parts. From 2003 to 2006, James served as vice president of manufacturing at Toyota Kentucky, after having been promoted multiple times following his career start nearly two decades earlier.
James recently was named one of the Top 100 Most Influential Blacks in Corporate America. Serving as Toyota’s North American diversity champion, he led diversity and inclusion efforts for the company in plants across the U.S., Canada and Mexico, which directly employ a total of nearly 40,000 people.
In addition to ensuring that his company serves as an outstanding corporate and community citizen, James lends his personal talents in service to several civic and community organizations. He currently serves as Chair-Elect of the Board of Directors for the Kentucky Chamber of Commerce and is a board member of the Bluegrass Economic Advancement Movement. James is active in the Executive Leadership Council and Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity. In the past, he has served on the board of North Carolina A & T School of Engineering, Kentucky State University and supported the Board of Affiliates of the National Society of Black Engineers.
A native of Norfolk, Virginia, James received his Bachelors of Science degree in Mechanical Engineering Technology from Old Dominion University in 1978. He also holds an Associate’s degree in Applied Sciences from Old Dominion University, earned in 1976. Additionally, in 2013, James received an honorary doctorate of engineering from the University of Kentucky in recognition of his life’s work, and his leadership with Toyota.
He and his wife, Michaelene, reside in Lexington, Kentucky, which places him close to his children and their families.