COLUMBUS, Ind. – Toyota Material Handling (TMH) announced that Jeff Rufener, President and Chief Executive Officer (CEO), will retire at the end of the month. The company has selected Senior Vice President of Sales Bill Finerty to succeed Rufener effective January 1, 2022.
“On behalf of the entire Toyota family, we would like to thank Jeff for his leadership and impact during his 10 years with the company,” said Brett Wood, President and CEO of Toyota Material Handling North America and Senior Executive Officer of Toyota Industries Corporation (TICO). “Jeff led TMH through some of the largest, most transformational challenges in history, and he did so with grace, with empathy, and with compassion. He embraced each challenge, and always saw the positive opportunity in change.”
Rufener joined TMH in 2011 after more than 30 years with Mitsubishi Caterpillar Forklift America. During his tenure at TMH, Rufener oversaw the move of the company’s headquarters from California to Indiana and multiple expansions of TMH’s Indiana campus. Rufener also managed the integration of Toyota’s two Columbus-based companies – Toyota Material Handling USA (TMHU) and Toyota Industrial Equipment Manufacturing (TIEM) – into a single company in 2020.
During Rufener’s tenure, TICO made key strategic acquisitions such as Bastian Solutions and Vanderlande to enter the automation sector; Toyota Commercial Finance, and Hoist to expand Toyota’s heavy-duty lift truck offering. Rufener also helped TMH round out its product offering with the launch of many new electric models to ensure the organization continues to lead for decades to come.
Rufener has always been a respected leader in the material handling industry, previously serving as the President of the Industrial Truck Association (ITA) and as the first Chairman of the National Forklift Safety Day taskforce.
Rufener also championed the company’s partnership with the American Red Cross and has passionately helped it grow over the last several years, serving as Chairman of the Board of Directors for the Southeast Indiana chapter. Since 2018, TMH’s partnership with the Red Cross has resulted in corporate, dealer and associate support that includes donations of rental equipment, time, expertise, money and in some cases, blood donations, as part of the growing relationship between the two organizations.
“One of Jeff’s lasting legacies will be the culture he helped build and sustain, a culture centered around the company’s core purpose of ‘Helping People Carry the Load’,” Wood said. “Toyota is better because of Jeff, and the material handling industry is better because of Jeff. We wish Jeff and his family a very relaxing, healthy and safe retirement.”
Added Rufener: “It has been an honor to serve as TMH President & CEO, and I want to offer a sincere thank you to our associates, dealers, suppliers and customers whose hard work and dedication have allowed us to achieve great things. When I joined Toyota, I thought I was taking the best job in the forklift industry. Ten years later, I can tell you I know it’s the best job in the industry. This brand, this culture, this product line, and this group of Toyota dealers – all of those things make it the best position I could ever ask for.”
Finerty to Become TMH President and CEO in January
Finerty will take over for Rufener after more than five years leading the company’s sales teams. As Senior VP of Sales, Finerty also oversaw the TMH customer network and dealer network development, and he chairs the board of directors for TMH’s equity-owned dealerships and the company’s Heavy Duty Division.
Under Finerty’s leadership, TMH has reached records in sales, profit and market share.
Finerty has more than 30 years of industry involvement and previously held several executive leadership roles at Caterpillar, Inc.
“We conducted a thorough evaluation that included TICO executives, and after that analysis, we all agreed that Bill was the right person to lead the organization,” Wood said. “Bill has done an exceptional job leading Toyota’s sales teams to record-breaking success. His leadership style fits our culture perfectly, and he has a passion to help Toyota succeed in everything we do. It will be difficult for anyone to fill Jeff’s shoes, but I’m confident that Bill is prepared to succeed in this role, and the transition will be smooth because we are promoting from within.”
“I want to thank Jeff for his great leadership, mentorship and friendship, and also Brett and TICO for their confidence in me as I step into this role,” Finerty said. “I am honored and excited to have the opportunity to work with our talented team of associates and dealers to advance TMH’s growth strategy in the years to come.”
Jaksa Pejnovic will succeed Finerty to become TMH’s Vice President of Sales and Marketing, also effective January 1. Pejnovic has been with Toyota since 2013 and joined the TMH executive team in 2016 as the Director of Finance, Pricing and Strategic Planning. Prior to joining TMH, Pejnovic spent 12 years at CNO Financial Group in a number of finance and accounting positions.
“Jaksa has been an integral part of Toyota’s success by leading the development and execution of our long-term strategy,” Finerty said. “I’m confident he will help deliver more industry-leading results in this new role.”
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