Toyota Motor Corporation will halve the number of board members and spin off its housing sales division to speed up decision-making and streamline its balance sheet, The New York Times (NYT) said.

According to the newspaper, the moves are the latest in a string of steps designed to increase efficiency at Japan’s largest car maker. Toyota recently announced plans to overhaul its domestic dealership network and begin selling its successful Lexus luxury line in Japan, the NYT noted.

The New York Times noted that the new measures come amid signs that Toyota’s main profit generator, the United States market, may slump in 2003 while sales in Japan are expected to remain lukewarm at best. With the war in Iraq unnerving consumers globally, the company, which earns an estimated three-quarters of its profits in America, must prepare for a possible slowdown, the paper said.

“They think a storm is ahead and if you’re facing a difficult environment, you can’t have slow decision-making,” Chris Richter, an auto analyst at HSBC Securities (Japan), told the New York Times. “With 58 people on the board, it’s not like they can turn on a dime,” he reportedly added.

The NYT said Toyota will reduce its board to between 20 and 30, bringing the company more in line with Japanese industry standards. Honda Motor Company, Japan’s second-largest car maker, has 36 directors and Nissan Motor Company, which is part-owned by Renault of France, cut its board by two-thirds in 1999 and will trim it again to seven after a shareholders’ meeting in June, the paper added.