Motorsport enthusiast Akio Toyoda assumes control of world's largest car manufacturer
20 January 2009

Akio Toyoda, the driving force behind the Lexus LF-A supercar and the IS-F super saloon, will become the next president and CEO of Toyota, the company announced in Tokyo today.

The 52-year-old Akio Toyoda, grandson of the founder of Toyota, takes over the reins at Toyota this summer and succeeds 66-year-old Katsuaki Watanabe, who has been Toyota chief since 2005.

Akio Toyoda is currently executive vice president, but has long been expected to eventually head up Japan's most powerful car company.

Toyoda is also a confirmed car nut and has raced in the Nurburging 24 hours. Without Toyoda’s support, the Lexus LF-A would never have survived as long as it has inside the Toyota system (even though it’s yet to be confirmed for production). Toyoda himself demonstrated the LF-A at Fuji Speedway late last year at the Toyota Motor Sports Festival.

Toyoda’s father, Shoichiro Toyoda, was Toyota president between 1982 and 1992 and has been quietly preparing the ground for years to make sure Akio has the right business experience to succeed to the highest post in the company.

Toyoda takes over at a critical time for the firm, when the recent record-breaking years of profit have suddenly ground to a halt. Toyota, which was not so long ago gunning for 10 million sales a year, has just announced that 2008 sales came in at 8.97 million units, a fall of 4 per cent.

With the savage market downturn, Toyota is also predicting an operating loss of ¥150 billion (£1.2bn) for the current business year, a big shock for Japan's richest company.

Peter Nunn

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