CEOs don't get much cooler than Akio, but the company's future is said to be in good hands
By Cam Tait / Thursday, 26 January 2023 / Loading comments
Toyota president and all-round motoring nut Akio Toyoda is stepping down from his role at the top of the Japanese car giant after 14 years in the job. Toyoda, the grandson of company founder Kiichiro Toyoda, will take up the position of chairman at the firm, with Lexus boss Koji Sato replacing him as Toyota CEO in April.
Toyoda’s time at the helm will be remembered fondly by enthusiasts. That much would be guaranteed by his role in the Lexus LFA story – but the fact that he is chiefly responsible for Toyota’s transformation from pensioner-pleaser to performance car champion makes him the most prominent company boss in a generation. His abiding love of motorsport was exemplified by his insistence that Gazoo Racing be brought front and centre, all but replacing Toyota Racing Development (also known as TRD) as the company’s in-house tuner.
The GR team rewarded his support with contenders for the best hot hatch (in the GR Yaris). and sports car (GR86) introduced this decade. Toyoda even took a hands-on approach to development, and was considered Toyota’s chief test driver. Let’s not forget either that his insistence the company return to racing, resulted in four WRC driver’s championships and five Le Mans wins. If that weren’t enough, he’s also keen racing driver himself, clocking up Nürburgring 24 Hour appearances in a Lexus LFA and GR Supra GT4 car.
Toyoda’s time at the top has done wonders for the company’s image and it’s a shame to see him step down what was obviously a very hands on job. But worry not, as his successor seems to be cut from the same cloth; along with his Lexus role, Sato also heads up Gazoo Racing, which, ought to mean he sees the value in keeping Toyota at the forefront of endurance racing and rallying. Toyoda leaves behind some mighty big boots to fill – especially as the world’s biggest carmaker transitions to an electrified product line – but if he’s been as diligent with his succession as everything else, Toyota should be in safe hands.
- 2021 Toyota GR Yaris | UK Review
- 2022 Toyota GR86 | PH Review
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