Akio Toyoda, chairman and chief executive officer of Toyota Motor Corporation, will step down on April 1 and become chairman of the board.
He will be replaced by Koji Sato, current president of both the Lexus brand and Gazoo Racing, Toyota’s motorsport and performance car division.
Under Toyoda, the automaker remained committed to hybrids and slow to adopt electric vehicles, but that could change under new, younger leadership.
Akio Toyoda, president and CEO of Toyota Motor Corporation, will step down from his position as head of the Japanese automaker on April 1, the company announced today. Toyoda, 66, will become the chairman of the board, with current chairman Takeshi Uchiyamada retiring, although he will remain a board member. Toyoda is the grandson of the company’s founder, Kiichiro Toyoda, and has been the CEO since 2009.
He will be succeeded by Koji Sato, currently president of both the Lexus brand and Gazoo Racing, Toyota’s sports division that also developed the brand’s high-performance road cars, including the GR Supra and GR Corolla. Sato, 53, started in this role in 2020.
The announcement could signal a strategic shift in Toyota’s approach to electric vehicles. Though the company pioneered hybrids with the Prius, under Toyoda’s reign the automaker has been reluctant to commit to a transition to an all-electric lineup, citing concerns about the abundance of raw materials such a move would require.
The rollout of Toyota’s first dedicated EV, the bZ4X, also fared poorly, with a recall and halted sales last year over defective wheel hub bolts. Although the electric crossover has recently been relaunched, the automaker has low sales expectations.
But with Toyoda stepping aside, the brand’s priorities may change. “Because of my strong passion for cars, I am an old-fashioned person with regards to digitalization, electric vehicles and connected cars,” Toyoda said, as reported by financial time. “I can’t get beyond being a driver, and that’s my limit.”
He acknowledged that the new staff will be able to change the direction of the company, explaining that he needs to “take a step back to allow young people to enter the new chapter of what the future of mobility should look like”.
In 2021, the company showed off a number of potential future EVs it’s been mulling and announced a $35 billion investment in EVs, and Sato’s appointment could see many of these concepts hit production with an influx of financing dedicated to electrification. However, the Toyoda “car guy” spirit that helped propel the marque to the forefront of affordable performance cars in recent years has been preserved thanks to Sato’s ties to Gazoo Racing.
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