Toyota CEO Steps Down, Opening Up Possibility of New EV Strategy
Written by William Johnson, Teslarati
Published Jan. 26, 2023
Akio Toyoda, long-time Toyota CEO and grandson of the company’s founder, announced he will leave his position later this year. Lexus head Koji Sato will replace him.
Toyoda is known not only for his relation to the founder of the largest automotive company in the world, but also for taking the helm as CEO at Toyota after the market collapse of 2008 and guiding the company to where it is today. In 2012, Toyoda was named Man of the Year by AutoCar, following the Japanese brand’s rise to dominance in the early 20-teens. Now, as he departs, the company may again have the opportunity to turn a new leaf and head in a new direction.
The announcement is surrounded by significant fanfare but very few details. Many executives celebrated Toyoda’s dedication to his work and wished him the best as he plans to depart in April, but the brand’s future remains cloudy.
Toyoda’s goals within the auto industry were clear. First, due to his passion for driving and motorsports, he pushed the conservative Japanese brand to reignite its performance offerings. Second, Toyoda was known for his slower approach to electrification, instead opting to sell alternative vehicles before rolling out more serious EV offerings.
Sato has already hinted at a change in direction. While clearly interested in hydrogen engine and fuel cell technology, Sato has also guided Lexus through the development of its first EV, based on Toyota’s recently relaunched BZ4X.
Another indication of Sato’s potentially different strategy moving forward is his age. At 53, Sato is a spring chick compared to his fellow executives, suggesting he may be here to stay. However, the same was said of Toyoda, now departing at only 66.
The road ahead of Toyota is a difficult one. As more and more consumers move to electric offerings, the clock is certainly ticking for Toyota’s upcoming CEO. The potential change in strategy and leadership could be good for the company, perhaps resulting in a faster EV transition than many would expect.
“I believe that over the past 13 years, I have built a solid foundation for passing the baton forward,” Toyoda said.