Toyota CEO Akio Toyoda Resigns

Toyota Motor has announced that CEO Akio Toyoda, 66, will step down and become chairman in April 2023. Lexus President Koji Sato, 53, will replace him. Akio Toyoda said at the press conference that he looks forward to the future created by the next generation.

“I myself am a carmaker no matter how far I go. I believe that it is because I am a carmaker that I was able to promote Toyota’s transformation. However, I cannot beyond being it. I think that is my limitation,” Toyoda said.

One of the reasons he chose Sato as the new CEO was his youth.

“For Toyota’s future, the top management must continue to be on the frontlines themselves. This requires physical strength, energy, and passion. Sato possesses these qualities,” Toyoda said.

Akio Toyoda is the great-grandson of the founder of the Toyota Group. He represents one of Japan’s top companies and has a huge responsibility for the lives of the factory workers and their families. When he first became president in 2009, he rarely appeared in the media. He gave me the impression of being a typical Japanese company executive in suit, serious and cautious. He has been seen frequently on TV since 2019. At that time, he was cheerful, actively communicating with everyone, and full of energy. I was surprised to learn that the president of Toyota was such a person. The presentation on Toyota’s battery EV strategy in 2021 was superb.

As I later discovered, he intentionally refrained from media exposure in order to protect the products and employees. The public looked at him coldly as he led a life that had promised a path to the top of management and, true to the plot, became the CEO as the “Prince of the Toyota Group.” Then, eight months into Toyoda’s tenure as CEO in 2010, the Lexus recall issue arose. The accelerator pedal caught on the floor mat on the driver’s seat floor, and when the pedal failed to return, the car suddenly accelerated and went out of control, killing four people in the United States. Even when the accident first occurred, he stayed out of the public eye, delegating the response to the vice president and other executives and not holding a press conference. This drew harsh criticism from the press, and he had to attend a congressional hearing. This was a turning point for him. At the subsequent shareholders meeting, he said he responded to the questions with the intention of speaking to the dealers, customers, employees, and their families rather than answering the legislators. He took full responsibility with his own words and stated that he would not blame others. Since then, he has begun to appear frequently in the media to deliver Toyota’s thoughts to the world in his own words.

There is a word, “kaizen.” It refers to the cycle of identifying problems, setting goals, achieving goals, and organizational evolution. It is a representative philosophy of Toyota. Toyota will continue its “kaizen” efforts.

Kaizen has 3 levels:
Lv. 1: There is a standard (the best current work procedures and what they should be).
Lv. 2: Can be completed to standard (goals met to a point at this time)
Lv. 3: Standards are constantly evolving (always share the status of standards with the field and share opinions).

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