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Toyota Picks a New Younger Driver to Take the Wheel

 

Toyota Motor Corp has announced a change of its top management, with the group’s chief branding officer, Koji Sato, set to become its new CEO.

The world’s biggest carmaker said on Thursday that Akio Toyoda will step down as president and chief executive to become chairman from April 1.

Koji Sato, 53, who is also president of Toyota’s luxury brand Lexus, will become the new CEO, the company said. Current chairman Takeshi Uchiyamada will drop that role but remain on the board.

The issue of who would take over from Toyoda, the 66-year-old grandson of the company’s founder, had increasingly been a focus for investors.

During his more than a decade at the top, Toyoda presided over the carmaker during a period of intense change in the auto industry and rising uncertainty about how legacy automakers such as Toyota can fend off the challenge from newer – and often nimbler – challengers such as Tesla.

And in this period, Toyota also came under fire from environmental investors and groups for what they said was a reluctance to embrace electric vehicles.

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Toyota to Change EV Strategy to Close Gap With Tesla, BYD

 

 

‘Crisis after crisis’

Toyoda, speaking at a news conference, said his term at the helm of Toyota started in 2009 with “crisis after crisis” from the effects of a global recession, to Toyota’s own recall and safety crisis to the disruption that followed the 2011 earthquake and tsunami in northern Japan.

At a shareholder meeting in June last year, Toyoda said he was “thinking about timing and the selection of a successor” when asked about succession planning.

On Thursday, he said Sato was chosen because he “worked hard to learn Toyota’s philosophy”.

“The CEO needs youth, energy, strength.”

Sato started his career at Toyota in 1992, before rising through the ranks to become chief engineer of Lexus International, a luxury auto brand of Toyota, in 2016, according to his profile on the Toyota website.

He has held positions as the president of Lexus International and Gazoo Racing Company, Toyota’s motorsport brand, since 2020. He also took on an executive role at Toyota and became its chief branding officer in January 2021.

 

  • Reuters with additional editing by Jim Pollard

 

 

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Toyota, Honda, Nissan Ranked Badly for Decarbonisation

 

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Japan’s Toyota Pledges $1.8bn Indonesia EV Investment

 

 

Jim Pollard

Jim Pollard is an Australian journalist based in Thailand since 1999. He worked for News Ltd papers in Sydney, Perth, London and Melbourne before travelling through SE Asia in the late 90s. He was a senior editor at The Nation for 17+ years and has a family in Bangkok.

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