- Akio Toyoda, the president and CEO of the Toyota Motor Corporation, will step down on April 1 and become the chairman of the board of directors.
- 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 has remained committed to hybrids and slow to adopt EVs, but that could change under new, younger leadership.
Toyota Motor Corporation President and CEO Akio Toyoda will step down as head of the Japanese automaker on April 1, the company announced today. Toyoda, 66, will become the chairman of the board of directors, with current chairman Takeshi Uchiyamada stepping down, although he will remain a member of the board. 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 the president of both the Lexus brand and Gazoo Racing, Toyota’s motorsport division that also developed the brand’s road performance cars, including the GR Supra and GR Corolla. Sato (53) started in this role in 2020.
The announcement could signal a strategic change in Toyota’s approach to electric vehicles. Although the company pioneered 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 launch of Toyota’s first dedicated EV, the bZ4X, also fared poorly, with a recall and halted sales last year for faulty wheel hub bolts. Although the electric crossover was recently relaunched, the automaker has low sales expectations.
But with Toyoda stepping aside, the brand’s priorities may shift. “Due to my strong passion for cars, I am an old-timer 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 admitted that the new staff would be able to shift the direction of the company, explaining that he had to “take a step back to allow young people to enter the new chapter of what the future of mobility should be .”
In 2021, the company showed off a range 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 in funding dedicated to electrification is. However, the “car guy” spirit of Toyoda that helped bring the brand to the forefront of affordable performance cars in recent years was able to be preserved thanks to Sato’s Gazoo Racing tires.