By Arun Sudhaman

BRUSSELS: Colin Hensley, who led the communications response to Toyota’s recall crisis last year, has resigned from his position at the automotive giant.

Hensley departs after 15 years with Toyota Europe, most recently as GM of corporate affairs and planning, based in Brussels. He leaves as part of the company’s voluntary resignation programme, and told the Holmes Report that he is now seeking a new “challenging opportunity.”

“I just felt it was time to move on,” said Hensley. “I’m now looking for a challenging opportunity, that can use my experience well.”

Hensley began his Toyota career as an engineer, eventually moving into the planning and R&D divisions. In 2005 he was named GM of external affairs and comms for R&D before eventually overseeing three departments – external affairs planning, communications strategy and corporate communications – in his most recent role, which he held for three years.

In addition to overhauling the carmaker’s European communications strategy, Hensley was also Toyota’s  spokesman in the region during last year’s recall crisis – which saw the company recall nearly nine million vehicles because of alleged brake and accelerator defects.

According to Hensley, almost 200 people have so far left as part of Toyota’s voluntary resignation programme.

A probe by the US National Highway Traffic Safety Administration recently cleared Toyota’s electronic throttle systems from blame, instead pointing to safety problems that the company had already identified and fixed. The findings are a much-needed PR tonic for Toyota, which saw its reputation tarnished by the crisis for much of 2010.