TOKYO – Toyota Motor Corp said on Thursday that Akio Toyoda will step down as president and chief executive to become chairman on April 1, and hand over the helm of Japan’s biggest automaker to its top branding officer, Koji Sato.
Sato will become the new CEO while the current chairman, Takeshi Uchiyamada, will drop his chairman title but remain on the board, Toyota said.
The issue of who would take over from Toyoda, the 66-year-old grandson of the company’s founder, had increasingly been a focus for investors.
Here are some reactions to the news:
KOJI ENDO, SENIOR ANALYST AT SBI SECURITIES
“I myself was surprised. Ten out of 10 analysts had probably been thinking that Toyoda would carry on (as CEO) for a while, so that came as a huge surprise. I don’t know if now was the best timing for the change.”
“Because Sato is 53 – very young compared to many of the fellow executives – he wouldn’t be able to make any major shifts. But the fact that he succeeded Toyoda at that age suggests Sato may continue leading the company for the next decade, so the next few years would be just a kind of apprenticeship period for Sato as the president.”
SEIJI SUGIURA, SENIOR ANALYST, TOKAI TOKYO RESEARCH INSTITUTE
“The timing of this was a surprise. Given that it happened after the share price broke below 2,000 yen, there may have been a sense of stagnation leading to speculation that the top management would be replaced. Koji Sato is a young person who likes cars, and there’s the impression that he was chosen to give a certain impression outside the company.
“Probably the day-to-day management will not change. Having Akio Toyoda step away from being CEO may increase his symbolism within the company and it may be hard for the young, new president to really show his hand.
“Toyota has spent a decade raising its value as a company, and the share price also rose. Continuing with the ‘Toyoda Route’ will lead to stable management. It’s a bit unknown if it can grow another level, this will have to be watched for the future.
HIROSHI NAMIOKA, CHIEF STRATEGIST AND FUND MANAGER AT T&D ASSET MANAGEMENT
“As seen in the case of Nidec, another Japanese manufacturer that has extensive supplier networks and is run by a charismatic founder-chairman … The selection of the next leader is a crucial factor in these companies’ future course.
“Toyota’s Toyoda was from the founder’s family, so today’s transition was especially symbolic. We must closely watch how Sato will lead the company going forward.”
TSUTOMU YAMADA, MARKET ANALYST, AU KABUCOM SECURITIES
“This was a surprising appointment. He’s so young … my initial reaction was ‘how many executives has he skipped?’. This is a big decision that nobody else but only Akio Toyoda could make.
“This appointment could accelerate Toyota’s generation change, whether it will be good or bad.
“I don’t think Toyota can completely shift its business strategy that soon even under Sato’s management so we would need to see the progress for a while. 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.”
TOSHIHIRO SUZUKI, PRESIDENT OF SUZUKI MOTOR
“I was very surprised because President Toyoda has made various remarks from the standpoint of the auto industry, and also about Japanese industry. To have somebody who has such passionate thoughts and has made so many comments suddenly quit makes me wonder what will happen in the future. I’d like him to continue to give us guidance regardless of his position.”