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.

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.

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.


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