Akio Toyoda, the CEO of Toyota Motor Corporation and grandson of the company’s founder, is stepping down after leading the world’s largest automaker for 14 years, according to Nikkei Asia.
Chief Branding Officer Koji Sato will replace Akio Toyoda on April 1. The plan is to “fully remodel” the automaker as a mobility company and accelerate the electrification of vehicles under Sato’s leadership.
Toyoda has led the company that pioneered hybrid cars with its Prius model since 2009 and will become chair. Sato is currently the chief branding officer and head of the Lexus unit. The handover is primarily due to Toyota’s slow adoption of electric vehicles.
“Because of my strong passion for cars, I am an old-fashioned person in regards to digitalization, electric vehicles, and connected cars. I cannot go beyond being a car guy, and that is my limitation,” Toyoda told reporters.
“The new team can do what I can’t do . . . I now need to take a step back in order to let young people enter the new chapter of what the future of mobility should be like,” he continued.
One of Toyoda’s mishaps was the botched launch of the company’s first mass-produced EV, the bZ4X, which was immediately recalled after its launch last year. He also has had a staunch view that hybrids are much better than EVs, which likely led to the management reshuffle.
“The mission of the new team, led by new President Sato, is to fully remodel Toyota as a mobility company,” Toyoda emphasized.
Tatsuo Yoshida, a senior analyst at Bloomberg Intelligence, said today’s announcement is a total “surprise.” He noted, “Toyoda’s choice to remain as chairman will help maintain the company’s business strategy and continuity.”
Toyoda’s slow move toward all-electric vehicles probably cost him the top spot.