Currently reading: Akio Toyoda becomes Toyota chairman; Lexus boss now CEO
Akio Toyoda steps back from CEO role after 14 years, to be replaced by Koji Sato from 1 April

Lexus and Gazoo Racing boss Koji Sato will take over as Toyota CEO from April, when 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 will be charged with transforming Toyota into a “mobility company”.

Toyoda, who won Autocar'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.

However, explaining his move, Toyoda told reporters: "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."

Akio toyoda with toyota corolla ae86 zero emission 2023

Image: Noriyaki Mitsuhashi/N-Rak Photo Agency

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.

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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 UX 300e 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.

Charlie Martin

Charlie Martin Autocar
Title: Editorial Assistant, Autocar

As a reporter, Charlie plays a key role in setting the news agenda for the automotive industry. He joined Autocar in July 2022 after a nine-month stint as an apprentice with sister publication, What Car?. He's previously contributed to The Intercooler, and placed second in Hagerty’s 2019 Young Writer competition with a MG Metro 6R4 feature

He is the proud owner of a Fiat Panda 100HP, and hopes to one day add a lightweight sports car like a Caterham Seven or a Lotus Elise S1 to his collection.

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Deputy 26 January 2023

System crashes then both comments get posted..... good thing Autocar comments coders don't do automotive systems.....

Deputy 26 January 2023

Compare his leadership with Thierry Bollore !  One has a vision and knows when to move on and leave a legacy of one of the greatest companies in the world, the other just moves around money until being fired from every role!

Deputy 26 January 2023

I was fortunate enough to meet Toyoda San a few times in Brussels.  A truly great guy with a 100 year business plan.  Can you imagine a Western automotive CEO moving on and saying someone else with a different vision is needed??  Compare this with that buffoon Thierry Bollore!!