The Japanese automaker announced the change Thursday, saying that current president Akio Toyoda will appoint a chairman of the board once his successor — Lexus boss Koji Sato — takes over day-to-day running of the company. The company said Takeshi Uchiyamada, the current chairman of the board, will resign from his position but will remain on the board. Changes are effective from April 1.
It’s surprising news. Toyoda is still going strong and has been at the helm of the company for thirteen years. Join Toyota in a time of global crisis and make it what it is. “There are two paths. One path leads to short-term success or quick victory. The second path returns to the core qualities and philosophies that give us strength. I chose the latter,” Toyoda said.
The change comes at a time when Toyota has been criticized for lagging behind in preparing and producing pure electric vehicles. Unlike other automakers, the company has previously said it remains unconvinced this is the best way forward. And it was Toyoda who could speak this opinion out loud.
The truth is that Toyota, the world’s largest automaker in terms of vehicles sold, has lagged behind most of the world’s other major competitors in producing fully battery electric vehicles, despite its history as a leader in hybrid vehicles. At the same time, the automaker is investing the most in the development of electric vehicles powered by hydrogen fuel cells on board.
Toyoda trained his successor, but reminded him that he should not run the company alone, but also listen to others. He also stated that Sato—who also serves as Head of Sport for Gazoo Racing in addition to Lexus—always works hard to produce new cars and has embraced Toyota’s philosophy, technologies, and practices. “These are exactly the qualities I would like someone at the pinnacle of Toyota to embody.”
In the speech, Toyoda also pointed out that thirteen years has been a rocky road that requires an enormous amount of time to bear fruit, something that those who focus on the short term do not understand or appreciate. “When I look back on the past thirteen years as president, there has never been a peaceful year, month, or day. I haven’t always felt supported by management, but I believe that over the past thirteen years, I’ve built a solid foundation for the transition of responsibility.”
Toyoda is the man who helped Toyota improve long-time bestsellers like the Crown and Corolla and, with his passion and drive, the GR86, Supra and GR Yaris.
“If it’s not fun to drive, it’s not a car,” said Akio Toyoda after three years as president of the company. It was like a bolt from the blue from the highest representative of such a conservative concern.
But those who followed him from the beginning were not surprised. The grandson of the founder of the automobile company, Kiichiro Toyoda, was very fond of cars and always did everything to make the brand more attractive. In addition, he managed to get her out of serious trouble several times. The first was the accelerator pedal stuck for some models, and then came the devastating earthquake in the north of the country.
In 2011, Toyota fell from being the world’s largest automaker to third place, behind General Motors and the Volkswagen Group. This was due not only to the aforementioned problems, but also to the strong exchange rate of the Japanese currency, the highest in the past sixty-five years. Because of this, Japanese cars suddenly became very expensive and therefore uncompetitive in export markets.
But Akio Toyoda was able to handle it all, with respectable speed. He completely changed the way the company was run. He gave more freedom to the European and American divisions, halved the number of board members, removed layers in the company’s management structure, and held meetings every Tuesday morning with his five most important advisors to review the company’s operations over the past week. It also abolished the traditional rotation of senior managers, who now remain in their fields.
We’ll see how Toyota fares without it. And how long will it take before Toyoda completely withdraws from the management of the company, or, conversely, there are votes to return to its management.
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