Toyota Motor‘s president and chief executive, Akio Toyoda, will step down from his post on April 1, to be succeeded by current Chief Branding Officer Koji Sato, the Japanese automaker said Thursday.
Sato, 53, has been heading the Toyota Lexus division and the GAZOO racing company since 2020.
Toyoda will become the new chairman of the board, while the current Chairman Takeshi Uchiyamada will continue as a member of the board.
Toyoda, 66, is the grandson of the carmaker’s founder and has served as chief executive since June 2009.
“I thought the best way to further Toyota’s transformation would be for me to become chairman in support of a new president, and this has led to today’s decision. Chairman Uchiyamada has long supported me in all imaginable ways,” Toyoda said in a translated webcast.
“In retrospect, these 13 years have been a period of struggling to survive one day after the next, and that is my honest feeling,” he added.
“The current Toyota structural change has been triggered by my resignation,” Uchiyamada said, stressing that he had been considering the timing of his retirement for “some time” to make way for a new generation.
“The foundation for passing the baton to the next generation has been laid,” he said.
“Cars in the future will evolve in the concept of mobility itself. Amid such, I hope to preserve the essential value of the car and propose new forms of mobility,” Sato said, adding that this represented the mission of the new leadership team.
Tokyo-listed shares of Toyota ended the session 0.63% lower Thursday ahead of the announcement.
A pioneer of green automobiles in 1997 with the introduction of its hybrid Prius, the company has increasingly fended off criticism over the pace at which it has pursued fully-electric vehicles, playing catch-up to newcomers such as Tesla.
In Dec. 2021, it announced plans to produce 30 EV models by 2030. A year later, in Dec. 2022, it said a consortium it leads secured funding to develop a hydrogen fuel cell pickup truck in the U.K.
Sato on Thursday acknowledged Toyota must continue its green efforts: “Energy security, for example, that is a big challenge that the whole planet needs to face. And also that the endeavor towards carbon neutrality will be one example of what we have to work on.”
— CNBC’s Jihye Lee contributed to this story
Correction: This article has been updated to reflect that Toyoda was referring to the company Toyota when discussing its transformation in the webcast. Sato has been heading the Toyota Lexus division. An earlier version misspelled the name of the division.