Behind every special car or story is at least one special person - and there have been many over the past 12 months - but Akio Toyoda is Autocar’s Man of the Year
Steve Cropley Autocar
19 December 2012

Times may be tough, but Toyota’s charismatic president and chief executive, Akio Toyoda, has had a remarkably successful year. And for this he wins Autocar’s premier end-of-year accolade.

Starting from a level somewhat lower than most observers reckoned his company could sink, Toyoda has brought redemption to the company after a succession of damaging safety scares – then launched an extremely impressive ‘halo’ car, the Toyota GT86.

Taking over from a distinctly old-school Japanese president, Akio Toyoda (who looks younger than his 56 years) has won approval from enthusiasts for his irrepressible love of cars. His establishment of the Gazoo Racing organisation (to encourage car-loving employees to create great Toyotas in future) and love of motorsport (he has raced a Lexus LFA at the Nürburgring) are moves that simply wouldn’t be possible for someone who didn’t love cars. Even those critical of ‘boring’ Toyota can see how directly Toyoda brings hope for the future.

Toyoda has won worldwide respect for his courage and humility in dealing directly with, and continuing to talk about, Toyota’s quality lapses of 2010-2011. Some of the faults have turned out to be far less serious than first thought and many a car boss would be anxious to point out the unfairness of such treatment. Toyoda resists. “I don’t know if we were unfairly treated or not,” he told us during a visit to this year’s Goodwood Festival of Speed, which he loves.

“This year we celebrate Toyota’s 75 years and as part of that I want to identify the past three years as a very good period during which we came to better understand what people want Toyota to be.”

Of course, the job is not done. Toyota has continued to take criticism from the wider press over large but essentially minor recalls. And the company still makes characterless models, some launched since Toyoda took over. All the same, there is powerful evidence to suggest that Autocar’s Man of the Year has sized up the task and intends to get it done.

Our Verdict

Toyota GT86

This light, uncomplicated coupé promises so much. Can the Toyota GT86 deliver?

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Toyoda edged Land Rover's Gerry McGovern and Ford's Alan Mullaly to take the Man of the Year title. For the full list of the men who defined motoring and motorsport in 2012, pick up our christmas double issue of Autocar, on sale now.

As ever, the magazine is available from all good newsagents, or available for download from Zinio or the Apple iTunes store.

Join the debate


19 December 2012

If one man deserves this award it is Akio Toyoda. He put affordable fun back in driving with the GT86. Akio proved that a manufacturer that has lost its way producing white goods on a mamoth scale for global consumption can be made to produce a fun car.

I still can't believe the across-the-board appreciation that GT86 has received - right down from the clown that Jeremy Clarkson has become to the very predictable whatcar.

Thanks Akio for proving that cars don't have to be blindingly fast to be fun. At best GT86 is a warm/hot hatch. But it puts a smile back on your face. And that's what driving is all about.

It brings you on the verge of freedom on the verge of breaking free. It must make you feel that you can get up and go and leave it all behind you. Cheers, mate. Nice one.

19 December 2012

fadyady wrote:

I still can't believe the across-the-board appreciation that GT86 has received - right down from the clown that Jeremy Clarkson has become to the very predictable whatcar.

I can't believe it either. Chiefly because What Car? awarded it three stars, and said it suffered a cacophony of wind and road noise, complained that the interior was cheap, and that because the engine feels lazy you need to thrash the thing down every road.

Personally I think the nausea inducing levels of praise the GT86 attracts is a direct result of every other car on sale being so magnificently dull these days - the very peak of dullness being, somewhat ironically, your average Toyota.

For motoring hacks to find a model honest in its intent to please drivers rather than passengers must have been something of a shock, even if it turned out to be crude, underpowered and induces sleep when you look at it, and even if it's really nothing new (lest we forget, in the early 90s the market was awash with similar cars: 200SX, RX-7, Silvia, AE86, R32 Skyline, Supra, and others).

Anyone actually seen one? Never clapped eyes on either the Toyota or the Subaru version on the road.

EDIT: and what fhp11 said above. Good stuff.

20 December 2012

The GT86 may be a great car, but the rest of the range is lacklustre. If Toyoda was such a great guy he would never have allowed the new Auris to leave the factory until it was as good as the Golf, and he certainly would've vetoed that ridiculous digital clock afterthought on the worst dashboard design this century. While he was messing around with low-volume sports cars, it was business as usual in the rest of the company.

19 December 2012

Firstly for the courage to produce a Coupe that history dictates will probably only sell in low volumes. 

Secondly for a succesful collaboration with Subaru- good choice in my opinion as they know a thing or two about bringing that something special to performance models.

Thirdly for the execution of the GT-86 which having driven now will definately find a place in my drive in the future. Fantastic Car well done.

19 December 2012

Odd, Awarded to the head of a company which has been setting recall records this year with millions and millions of vehicles recalled.

A Share price lower than 5 years ago, and has in the last few days been fined for the late reporting of safety defects with its vehicles. Not only that, Toyota has only one interesting vehicle in its range, the rest are some of the blandest, souless cars on the road.

Don't get me wrong, I respect the guy in some ways, but I hardly think that the boss of the above company could be described as "Man of the Year" - There are many greater Automotive acheivers at the moment in my opinion.

19 December 2012

Very well wrote Fhp11,if this guy is the best god knows who the

worse is.


19 December 2012

Pretty much all car companies issue recalls at some point but most aren't as well publicised. Toyota are extra cautious due to the potential litigation in America where a ridiculously small number of cars sold had problems, but Toyota recalled them all. I don't think this has any bearing on the qualities of this man.

19 December 2012

The Toyota Le Mans racer has quietly disappeared. We'll find out next year....

20 December 2012

Whatcar was in my view hypocritical in reviewing GT86. You can still visit the website and see for yourself. It gives the car 3 stars on the first page and 4 stars on the review page. Anyway I just felt that Autocar was right to give him this award after the generous praise the car has won from almost everyone. It's not only Autocar's car of the year. Most reviewers describe it as the most enjoyable new coupe.

If you have someone else in mind that you think should have got this award, by all means. In my view this guy is giving Toyota a new direction. Why shouldn't that be appreciated?

20 December 2012

Also Just read online that in some of the new style US Crash Tests, The Toyota Camry and Toyota Prius have had very bad results. Makes for worrying viewing on brand new vehicles:

In my opinion, Toyota are in a bad way, certainly couldnt call their MD "Man of the Year"


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