Toyota CEO Akio Toyoda Steps Down, To Be Replaced by Lexus Boss
Toyoda, grandson of Toyota founder Kiichiro Toyoda, has been at the helm of the global automaker for 14 years.
Akio Toyoda, the grandson of Toyota founder Kiichiro Toyoda, will step down from his roles as president and CEO of Toyota Motor Company, the automaker confirmed Thursday. Toyoda has been at the helm of the company for 14 years and will become chairman of Toyota's board.
Koji Sato, who has served in many roles at the automaker including Lexus International president, chief branding officer, Gazoo Racing Company president, and Toyota operating officer, will replace him on April 1.
Toyota did not make public any specific reasons for the major executive shakeup and likely never will. However, reports from Nikkei and Reuters attribute the decision to the automaker's slow response to a rapidly changing automotive industry, specifically the adoption of electric vehicles.
The industry has undergone a major change over the last five years, something that was further accelerated by the COVID-19 pandemic and the many logistical changes it caused. Sixty-six-year-old Toyoda praised his successor Sato, 53, for loving cars while reiterating the importance of promoting young talent.
"Sato is a man who has worked hard to master Toyota's philosophy, techniques and manners in the field of car manufacturing," Toyoda said, according to Nikkei. "[He] loves cars."
"In order to promote change in an age when the right answers are not known, it is necessary for the top management to continue to be on the frontlines themselves. To do so, physical strength, energy, and passion are essential. I think being young is a big attraction in itself."
The automaker has previously claimed that the automotive industry has undergone a "once-in-a-century" transformation, causing auto manufacturers to compete not only on product and the quality of said product, but also on emerging technologies, fuels, and even environmental and corporate policies.
Besides fulfilling his duties as the company's commander, Toyoda is also an avid fan of motor racing and he made this known throughout his rule. Toyoda was often deeply involved in the development of the company's performance vehicles, most recently the Toyota GR Yaris. This video shows Toyoda personally testing every mule of the performance hatch.
His passion for racing wasn't limited to spectating, as Toyoda competed several times in a wide variety of professional-level races. Most recently, he competed in the grueling Nurburgring 24 endurance race in a Toyota Supra—doing so under a fake name to avoid causing any ruckus with the media or fellow racers.
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