Toyota CEO Akio Toyoda is stepping down and becoming chairman after more than 13 years in charge, the company announced on Thursday, amid ambitions to shift to electric vehicles.
Toyoda is Toyota’s grandson and has overseen the company since 2009. He will step down on April 1 and be succeeded by Koji Sato, president of Toyota’s luxury brand Lexus, according to a statement from the company.
“I thought that the best way to further Toyota’s transformation would be for me to become chairman in support of a new president, and this led to today’s decision,” he said during a live broadcast.
“In retrospect, these 13 years have been a period of struggling to survive one day after the next. That is my honest feeling,” Toyoda added.
Simply expressed, Akio Toyoda wishes to pave the way for a new era of electrification. To that end, he has stepped back to let the next generation lead the charge.
He explained his reasoning in a translated webcast. “I am an old-fashioned person in terms of digitalization, electric vehicles, and connected cars because of my strong passion for cars,” Toyoda explained. “My limitation is that I cannot go beyond being a car guy.”
Sato, he feels, has what it takes to drive the company “beyond the limits that I can’t break through.” “In an era when the future is unpredictable, the head of management must continue to be on the front lines to promote change,” Toyoda said.
“For that, stamina, energy, and passion are indispensable. Being young is itself a key attribute.”
Sato is presently the company’s chief branding officer and the head of the Gazoo Racing division. His appointment will still require formal shareholder approval at the next general meeting.
Sato stated during the live broadcast that he plans to expedite Toyota’s transition to electrification and to engage in car manufacturing that “responds to various values and local demands.”
“I will give my all to bringing us one step closer to a future of mobility that only carmakers can create,” he remarked.