- Akio Toyoda, president and CEO of Toyota Motor Corporation, will step down on April 1 and become chairman of the board of directors.
- He will be replaced by Koji Sato, the 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 was slow to adopt EVs, but that may change under new, younger leadership.
Akio Toyoda, president and CEO of Toyota Motor Corporation, will step down as head of the Japanese automaker on April 1, the company announced today. Toyoda, 66, will become 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 CEO since 2009.
He will be replaced by Koji Sato, who is currently president of both the Lexus brand and Gazoo Racing, Toyota’s motorsport division that also develops the brand’s high-performance cars including the GR Supra and GR Corolla. Sato, 53, began this role in 2020.
The announcement could mark a strategic shift in Toyota’s approach to electric vehicles. Although the company pioneered hybrids with the Prius, under Toyoda’s reign, the automaker refused to commit to a transition to an all-electric lineup, citing concerns about the amount of raw materials such a move would require.
Toyota’s first dedicated EV launch, the bZ4X, also went well, with a recall and halt last year for faulty wheel hub bolts. Despite the recent relaunch of the electric crossover, the automaker has low sales expectations.
But with Toyoda on the sidelines, the brand’s priorities may change. “Because of my strong passion for cars, I’m a bit behind the times when it comes to digitization, electric vehicles and connected cars,” Toyoda said, as reported by The Financial Times. “I can’t go beyond being a car guy, and that’s my limitation.”
He acknowledged that the new staff would be able to change the direction of the company, explaining that he had to “take a step back to allow young people to enter a new chapter of what the future of mobility should be.”
In 2021, the company showcased a series of potential future EVs it was considering and announced a $35 billion investment in electric vehicles, and Sato’s appointment could see many of those concepts reach production with an influx of funding specifically for electrification. However, Toyoda’s “car guy” spirit that helped bring the brand to the forefront of affordable performance cars over the past few years can be maintained thanks to Sato’s Gazoo Racing relationship.
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