Toyota appoints Lexus boss as its new CEO, Akio Toyoda becomes Toyota chairman

Akio Toyoda steps back from CEO role after 14 years, to be replaced by Koji Sato from 1 April

By Charlie Martin, Autocar UK calendar 26 Jan 2023 Views icon4015 Views Share - Share to Facebook Share to Twitter Share to LinkedIn Share to Whatsapp
Toyota appoints Lexus boss as its new CEO, Akio Toyoda becomes Toyota chairman

Above (L-R): Akio Toyoda, Koji Sato and Takeshi Uchiyamada. (Photo: Noriaki Mitsuhashi/N-RAK Photo Agency)

Lexus and Gazoo Racing boss Koji Sato will take over as Toyota CEO from April, as Akio Toyoda becomes the company’s new chairman.

Current chairman Takeshi Uchiyamada – chief engineer of the original Toyota Prius – will retain a seat on the board. Sato became president of Lexus in January 2020, and then Gazoo Racing that September.

In a broadcast on Toyota Times, Toyoda said Sato would be charged with transforming Toyota into a “mobility company”.

Toyoda, who won Autocar UK's prestigious Issigonis Trophy in 2018, took charge of Toyota in June 2009.

His love of cars has been key to Toyota's identity over the past decade as the company returned to producing desirable sporting models including the GT86 and Supra.

He is also known for racing under the pseudonym 'Driver Morizo' in several events, including the 24 Hours of Nürburgring in 2019.

Toyoda said on the broadcast that Sato was chosen as the next CEO partly because of his love of cars. The duo more recently presented a pair of zero-emission converted AE86-generation Toyota Corollas (one battery-electric, one hydrogen-combustion) at Tokyo Auto Salon, a motor show largely reserved for aftermarket manufacturers.

Finding a successor for Toyoda, 66, became an increasingly important issue for shareholders in recent years. He confirmed he was considering the issue at a shareholder meeting in June 2022.

One of the key challenges facing Sato will be accelerating the company's electrification efforts. In October, it was reported that Toyota was rebooting its plans to launch 30 EVs by 2030, in response to the unexpectedly rapid uptake of EVs.

The Toyota brand launched its first mass-market electric car – the bZ4X SUV – last year and has since followed it with the China-only bZ3 saloon. Its next EV, previewed by the bZ Compact Crossover concept, is expected to be on sale by the end of this year.

Lexus, meanwhile, has sold the battery-electric UX300e since 2019, and will begin selling the RZ SUV – its first EV on the e-TNGA platform used by the bZ3 and bZ4X – later this year. The brand's lack of competitive electric models compared with rival brands has thus far affected its efforts to break into the European mainstream.

Maintaining the company's sporting ambition through electrification – its future having been hinted at by the Lexus Electrified Sport concept – is also expected to be high on Sato's agenda.

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