Toyota announced a change to its executive structure on January 26, appointing Operating Officer Koji Sato the new president and Akio Toyoda the new chairman after his 13 years of presidency. Here, we share messages delivered at the live broadcast.
“He has worked hard in the workplaces of car-making to embrace Toyota’s philosophy, techniques, and practices. Those are exactly the traits I would want whoever stands at the top of Toyota to embody.”
President Akio Toyoda joined the Toyota Times News live broadcast on January 26, 2023, to announce the first change in company president in 14 years.
Triggered by Chairman Uchiyamada’s resignation, Akio will succeed him as the new chairman. The baton of Toyota’s president and CEO will be passed on to Koji Sato, who now serves as president of Lexus International Co. and GAZOO Racing Company.
Here, we share messages from both leaders delivered at the Toyota Times live broadcast.
Remarks by President Akio Toyoda
Greetings to all of our Toyota Times News viewers. I am Akio Toyoda.
At an extraordinary meeting of the Board of Directors today, it was decided that Chairman Takeshi Uchiyamada will resign from his post in April, that I will be appointed the new chairman, and Koji Sato will be the new president.
We arranged this live broadcast on short notice to inform our stakeholders of this decision as quickly and accurately as possible.
Please let me start by sharing with you my thinking behind this decision.
These developments were triggered by the pending resignation of Chairman Uchiyamada.
I thought that the best way to further Toyota’s transformation would be for me to become chairman in support of a new president, and this led to today’s decision.
Chairman Uchiyamada has long supported me in all imaginable ways.
I would like to take this opportunity to express my most profound appreciation. Thank you, Chairman, truly.
I was appointed president immediately after our company’s fall into the red due to the global financial crisis.
Following that, our company faced a series of crises that threatened our survival, such as the global recall crisis and the Great East Japan Earthquake.
In retrospect, these 13 years have been a period of struggling to survive one day after the next. That is my honest feeling.
I believe that in times of crisis, two paths appear before us.
One is a path toward short-term success or a quick victory. The other is a path that leads back to the essential qualities and philosophies that gave us strength.
I chose the latter.
This was the path toward Toyota’s philosophy—to make ever-better cars and to become a best-in-town company beloved and relied upon by stakeholders in each region around the world.
In other words, it entailed centering our operations around products and regions.
This has been a rocky path requiring tremendous amounts of time to bear fruit, and one not understood or appreciated by those who focus on the short term.
And time, indeed, it has taken.
Even so, as a result of the 370,000 members of Toyota striving in their various roles in each town around the world to make ever-better cars, our products have been greatly transformed.
We have revamped long-time bestsellers such as the Crown and Corolla, and we have brought back sports cars in the form of the 86, Supra, and GR Yaris. At the same time, we have also paid attention to our commercial vehicles.
The synergy between the three pillars of TNGA, our in-house company system, and our region-based structure means we have people focused on fulfilling the world’s needs regardless of the genre of vehicle.
I believe that with them, we were able to create such genba within Toyota.
Then, in 2020, we laid down the Toyota Philosophy, which clearly states the beliefs and values that must be passed on.
I hope that the Toyota Philosophy will serve as a place to which the next generation of top management can return, should it ever lose its way.
I believe that, over these 13 years, I have built a solid foundation for passing the baton forward.
Next, I would like to explain the reasons for appointing Mr. Sato as the new president.
One is that he has worked hard in the workplaces of car-making to embrace Toyota’s philosophy, techniques, and practices.
Those are exactly the traits I would want whoever stands at the top of Toyota to embody.
Another reason is that he loves cars.
There was a time when Mr. Sato was struggling with what he should convey at a Lexus dealer convention.
My advice was: “Rather than try to be like me, I want you to value your individuality.” That’s all I said.
He responded by saying: “If Morizo is someone who loves driving cars, I am someone who loves making cars that make drivers smile.”
Being able to say that you love your company’s products is truly important.
I believe that Mr. Sato, as our new president, will take our product-centered management even further forward.
Another thing that he has going for him is youth.
To promote change in an era in which the future is unpredictable, the head of management must continue to stand on the front lines.
For that, stamina, energy, and passion are indispensable.
Being young is itself a key attribute.
I told Sato: “Don’t try to run the company on your own but as a team.”
He is not the only member of staff I have nurtured over these 13 years.
I believe that I have nurtured many colleagues with diverse personalities.
Innovation is essential for creating the future.
I believe that innovation is created when diverse personalities work together toward a shared goal.
When I look at incoming President Sato, I see someone who, rather than try to please me as company president, has pursued Master Driver and Morizo, and wanted to perfect the driving feel of Toyota and Lexus.
He has wanted to make ever-better cars.
He has wanted to earn a smile from the master driver, Morizo himself.
I think that is the passion that has driven him.
I am a carmaker, through and through. I believe that’s how I have successfully transformed Toyota.
However, a carmaker is all that I am. And I see that as my own limit.
The new team under upcoming President Sato has a mission to transform Toyota into a mobility company.
I think that Sato, too, is a carmaker like me.
He is now the same age I was when I became president. He has youth and like-minded colleagues. I expect this new team to go beyond the limits that I can’t break through.
I believe in the future that the next generation will create. I invite you to look forward to the future of Toyota. Thank you very much.
Opening remarks by incoming president Koji Sato
Thank you for the introduction. I am Koji Sato.
I am immensely humbled to be entrusted with the tremendous responsibility of carrying forward the passion of President Toyoda.
When I received the unofficial notice that I would be appointed president,
President Toyoda told me: “Do things your way.”
My thoughts are now about how to fulfill my role my way in a new management team.
When talking about doing things “my way”, that means I am an engineer and have long been involved in car-making.
I love making cars.
For that reason, I want to be a president who continues to make cars.
I would like to show what kind of company Toyota should be through our cars. That’s what I want to do.
Cars that are fun to drive and cars that support mobility.
And cars in the future will evolve into the concept of mobility itself.
Amid such, I hope to preserve the essential value of the car and propose new forms of mobility.
Our new team, under the theme of “inheritance and evolution”, will implement product-centered and region-centered management, while valuing the philosophy of our company’s founding and will endeavor to fully redesign Toyota into a mobility company.
I look forward to your support.
Closing remarks by incoming president Koji Sato
In closing, I would like to assure you of my resolve.
As President Toyoda mentioned, the new team’s mission is to transform Toyota into a mobility company.
Underlying this is the desire to achieve mobility for all.
As we move forward, cars will become part of social systems that include infrastructure.
Amid such changes, it is our job to help cars evolve so that everyone in the world will be able to say they want cars to continue to exist.
Making ever-better cars…
The best car company in town…
It is exactly because these values that Toyota must hold have been so deeply instilled over the past 13 years that the new team must push implementation in greater volume and at greater speed.
We would like to demonstrate this commitment through concrete actions and products, such as accelerating the shift to electrification and engaging in car-making that responds to diverse values and local needs.
I will give my all to bringing us one step closer to a future of mobility that only carmakers can create.
I would deeply appreciate your guidance and support.
Thank you very much for your time today.