Toyota CEO Akio Toyoda To Pass Baton to Lexus President, Koji Sato

Could this mean that Toyota might take electric cars seriously?

Toyota has announced that CEO and President Akio Toyoda will be stepping down from his current positions on 1 April and succeeded by the current head of its Lexus division and GAZOO racing company, Koji Sato (pictured below, centre).

Toyoda, who is the grandson of the founder of Toyota, has served as the company CEO since June 2009. He will take the place of Takeshi Uchiyamada (pictured below, right). as Chairman of the Board.

In a surprisingly honest statement, Toyoda said,  “I thought the best way to further Toyota’s transformation would be for me to become chairman in support of a new president, and this has led to today’s decision…In retrospect, these 13 years have been a period of struggling to survive one day after the next, and that is my honest feeling.”

When Toyota took over the company reins, it was in the midst of the global financial crisis and had reported its first loss in decades. Not long after, the company was slammed with a safety crisis and had to recall over 2 million vehicles for faulty accelerator pedal. Subsequently, there was the 2011 earthquake and tsunami in Japan that caused deaths and disruptions to operations.

Under Toyoda’s leadership, Toyota has remain steadfast in the belief that EVs are not the answer to decarbonisation and that a variety of power source, including hydrogen, is the solution. However, this has led to criticism towards Toyota for not embracing EVs as warmly or as quickly as other automakers and countries have.

With that, Toyoda, 66, believes that the younger Sato, 53, who is the same age as Toyoda when he stepped into the role of chief executive, will be able to help Toyota’s transition into the new era. Toyoda is a self-admitted “carmaker” and what Toyota needs now is someone who can help it transform into a mobility company. Whether Sato will steer Toyota towards an electric future remains to be seen.

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