Akio Toyoda steps down as Toyota boss and hands over the reins to Lexus boss

Akio Toyoda, the grandson of Toyota founder Kiichiro Toyoda, is leaving his position as Toyota’s president and CEO to become its chairman, the automaker announced on Thursday.

He was succeeded by Koji Sato, the current head of Lexus and head of Gazoo, the official motorsport division of Toyota and Lexus.

Current Toyota chairman Takeshi Uchiyamada will remain on the board after Toyoda takes over as chairman.

The changes apply from April 1st.

Koji Sato

Koji Sato

Toyoda has headed Toyota since 2009, during which time he managed to bring some much-needed vitality to the automaker’s designs and sportiness to its engineering. An avid racing driver, Toyoda also expanded Toyota’s motorsport presence, particularly at the highest level of endurance racing.

Toyoda also helped Toyota launch its first mass-produced electric vehicles in the form of the new BZ series, although the company remained reluctant to fully adopt electric vehicles, unlike some other automakers’ leaders.

Although the overall strategy at Toyota is unlikely to change significantly under Sato’s rule, particularly if Toyoda serves as chairman, the company could make a stronger push towards electric vehicles. During his time at Lexus, Sato pledged to offer an EV option in every segment where the brand competes by 2030. Lexus also plans to have zero-emission vehicles, including fuel cell electric vehicles, which will account for 100% of its U.S. sales. Europe and China by 2030 and the rest of the world by 2035.

Sato joined Toyota in 1992 and worked his way up to chief engineer at Lexus in 2016. In 2020 he became head of Lexus and Gazoo.