01/30/2023, 15.54
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Toyota’s president steps down while the company still lags behind in e-cars

by Guido Alberto Casanova

The resignation of Toyota President Akio Toyoda, the founder’s great-grandson, reflects the company’s strategic choices for future mobility. After leading in hybrid car production, the Japanese group was stuck with a model that slowed down its transition into the e-car market.

Tokyo (AsiaNews) – After 14 years at the helm of the world's largest carmaker, Akio Toyoda is stepping down as Toyota's president, effective next April, the company announced today.

The 66-year-old Toyoda, who is the great-grandson of the founder of the industrial group, will take up the post of chairman.

He will be succeeded by Koji Sato, 53, who currently heads Lexus, the automotive giant’s luxury vehicle division. Under Toyoda’s supervision, Sato will focus on developing a competitive hydrogen engine.

According to Japanese press, the succession took place after the current chairman, Takeshi Uchiyama, expressed his intention to retire.

“I felt it would be best for me to become chairman to support the new president in further reforming Toyota,” Toyoda said.

The change of leadership, however, comes at a very delicate time for the company, which is facing  many difficulties in keeping its global leadership as the world car market is making the transition to electric.

From this point of view, under Toyoda’s leadership, the Japanese company has been slow compared to the competition and today has fewer electric models to offer.

“Because of my strong passion for cars, I am an old-fashioned person in regards to digitalisation, electric vehicles, and connected cars. I cannot go beyond being a car guy, and that is my limitation,” Toyoda said.

“The new team can do what I can’t do,” he explained. “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.”

Toyota was one of first carmakers to successfully make and sell hybrid cars. The Toyota Prius was its flagship model for years.

This success had, however, unexpected consequences because the company ended up sitting on its laurels, slowing down its transition to electric while the competition was pressing ahead.

In 2021, Toyota tried to make up for its laggardness by announcing a US$ 35 billion plan, but the investment has not yet paid off.

The new president must now boost Toyota's e-car production at a time when none of its models are in the top-10 in the global e-car market.

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