Executive Insider: Kevin Voelkel

The President of Toyota Motor Manufacturing, Texas talks trucks, team member success and career lessons on the farm

September 17, 2019

Kevin Voelkel is a busy man. As president of Toyota’s San Antonio plant, he leads approximately 3,200 team members tasked with assembling Toyota’s Tundra and Tacoma trucks. He also ensures the seamless collaboration of the plant’s 23 onsite suppliers and their 4,000 associates. . Together, they work to line off one truck roughly every 60 seconds. So yeah, you could say he’s got a lot to do. Watch the video above to learn more about Voelkel and how he leads, or read the Q&A below.
Driver’s Seat: Kevin, thanks for joining us. You’ve been with the Texas plant since the very beginning. Have you always worked in the automotive industry?

Voelkel: All of my career has involved some kind of manufacturing. But I actually started in the chemical industry. I had a career with Alcoa Aluminum first, then joined Toyota in 2005. It was a fortunate opportunity to switch over to automotive, and it’s been a blessing. It’s a good match for me. I like working on things that involve bringing people together to solve something or build something.

You’re leading a team of thousands here – working together to assemble the very popular Tundra and Tacoma pickup trucks. How do you try to inspire and lead this team?

I try to be hands on, with a little bit of energy. The most important values for me as a leader are integrity and humility. I like to be involved and lead with passion.
Here from the Beginning – Toyota named Voelkel president of the Toyota Motor Manufacturing, Texas plant in 2019 . But he’s actually been with the plant since 2005, and was critical in developing the plant’s on-site supplier campus.

As plant president, you have thousands of team members looking up to you for guidance and direction. What motivates you?

Two things. The most important is to give back and watch people grow. Watching those who take interest in developing their careers and giving them the opportunity to do that.
The other is problem solving. In manufacturing, there’s no lack of problems throughout the day. Being able to bring people together to solve problems is something I’m passionate about.

We have thousands of people across this company – many of whom will never set foot in a plant. What do you want them to know about TMMTX and what goes on here?

Well, I hope they have the opportunity to visit. Our doors are always open and we’re a big Toyota family. This is the heart of our company – where we build the products that touch our customers.
But they should know that there are 3,200 team members here who are highly passionate about building trucks. That’s the culture here. And they’re excited to come to work every day. Manufacturing is challenging and rewarding. But this is where Team Texas (Toyota and on-site suppliers) comes together to build the world’s best truck at a pace of about a thousand trucks per day.
Go Team – Voelkel says his wife’s support has been critical to his success at Toyota. She’s also a big fan of the San Antonio Spurs.

So what are you driving? I bet I can guess.

A Tundra, of course! I drive a 1794 edition. It’s got all the power I need. Probably a little too much when I don’t need it.

There’s nothing like a truck when you need a truck.

That’s right. That’s why I drive trucks. In fact, ever since I’ve been driving, I’ve only owned one car. All the rest have been trucks.

What was your first job?

Growing up in rural Texas, it was any farm or ranch job that I could get my hands on to make some money in the summer.

What was that like? Did it teach you anything useful that you’ve drawn on later in your career?

That I didn’t want to work on a farm.
Down on the Farm – Voelkel loves spending time on the farm with his granddaughter, Kolbie. She looks pretty happy, too!

Well, this plant is a long way from the farm. What do you do for fun in your spare time – assuming you have some.

A lot of outdoor hobbies – camping, fishing, traveling with my wife. We recently had a new addition to our family with a granddaughter. Spending time with her is at the top of my list. But, actually… we also have an old farm. So believe it or not, now I’m back on a tractor sometimes.

It’s all come full circle.

That’s right.

Finally, Kevin – you’ve been so successful in your role at TMMTX. Any career advice you’d like to pass along?

I would tell team members this: Everything is possible. Keep working on your professional and personal growth. The day you stop learning is the day you start giving up on your personal potential. Toyota is a great place to start a career. But just know that in Toyota, change is ever present, and challenge is always possible. But through those two things, it’s a pathway for career development. So keep chasing your dreams and keep striving to make yourself recognized.

By Kristen Orsborn

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