Jan 26, 2023 - Economy

Toyota CEO Akio Toyoda steps down amid questions about EV plans

A man in a gray suit and blue tie holds his hands out and open

Toyota CEO Akio Toyoda is stepping down. Photo by YOSHIKAZU TSUNO/Gamma-Rapho via Getty Images

Toyota CEO Akio Toyoda is stepping down from his post and becoming chairman amid questions about whether the automaker has moved quickly enough on electric vehicles.

Why it matters: Toyota is a powerful force in the auto industry, ranking as the best-selling automaker in the world in 2021.

Driving the news: Toyota announced the shakeup Thursday morning, saying that Koji Sato, president of its Lexus luxury brand, will become CEO.

  • As the grandson of Toyota founder Kiichiro Toyoda, Akio Toyoda has led the company's transition from mostly passenger cars to more profitable SUVs and pickups.

Zoom in: Toyoda has taken a more cautious path on EVs than certain competitors, saying the company was investing in the technology but didn't want to get ahead of customer demand.

  • The company has only one EV on the market in the U.S., and it's gotten off to a rough start, having been subject to a major recall in 2022.

What they're saying: "To respond to the future of electrification and the changing environment, Toyota is continuously innovating its leadership structure and organization to meet customer expectations while ensuring continuity in the marketplace," Toyota said Thursday in a statement.

  • "These latest changes reflect our company's philosophy of continuous improvement to deliver happiness and mobility for all."

Be smart: Toyota is working on EVs behind the scenes, so the change in leadership may reflect a generational handoff, more than a change in strategy.

  • "But we might be going to see the company with a faster decision-making process, having suffered from a delayed decision-making such as a launch timing of EVs," AU Kabucom Securities market analyst Tsutomu Yamada told Reuters.
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