Toyota Times News

Akio's Admiration for Mr. Prius, the Man Who Created Something from Nothing


Takeshi Uchiyamada, aka "Mr. Prius," is set to step down as chairman. Did the man who always stood by Akio's side also have some harsh words for the president? A recap of the live broadcast.

“The person who tells me things I don’t like to hear”

Scene III: Host Yuta Tomikawa asks Akio what role Chairman Uchiyamada played in his career.


More than being chairman, he was like an older brother supporting his wayward sibling with kindness and a level head.

He took over from the honorary chairman (Shoichiro Toyoda) as the person who tells me things I don’t like to hear—“Don’t drive,” and “How long are you going to keep driving?”

I told him that I am not an engineer, so the only way for me to point the way to making ever-better cars is to personally get behind the wheel and drive. But he wouldn’t listen. (Laughs)

If I’m in trouble, however, he is truly kind. Recently, the two of us working together have been unstoppable. I think the mood in our product decision-making meetings has shifted. When I go off in a completely different direction, he quickly brings things back to reality, a true sign that he is a person of character.


Was this a conscious effort on your part?


Because the president is working very hard to promote structural reform, I always try to be on the side of supporting him in front of everyone.

But sometimes we do disagree a bit. We work that out between the two of us, not in front of everyone. Or we discuss which direction to go very early on before the ideas are set. That’s how we kept our vectors aligned.


What terrified me the most was hearing, “I need to have a word with you.” That made me wonder what the problem might be.


The only thing I have always been against is motorsports. The president races as a driver, despite being irreplaceable to the company. He tells me, “I still drive outside racing,” but unlike rally, racing is a battle against other people.

Doing things your way has brought much excitement to motorsports, but I hope that from now on, you will hand the wheel over to younger drivers and support motorsports in a different way. (Laughs)


It was Mr. Uchiyamada who said that to create a hydrogen society, we need a project that is easy for everyone to understand. From there, Sato suggested making a hydrogen-powered car and that I should be the driver.

Even though we’ve managed to change hydrogen’s dangerous image to one of future potential, (Mr. Uchiyamada) still won’t say, “Good job.” (Laughs)

Akio Toyoda needs to spread his wings wider

Scene IV: Tomikawa asks, “Why change presidents now?”


Well, it’s because Mr. Uchiyamada is resigning. If he were willing to stay, I would have considered a position where I am neither the president nor the chairman. At first, I proposed such an idea.

He didn’t look too pleased, but when I told him I would take his place, he seemed glad I’d made a decision.

In his heart, he knew this was the right timing, but he waited for me to make my own decision and gave me the chance to share it. As I’ve said before, he is like a big brother to me.


Is that right, Mr. Uchiyamada?


It didn’t happen overnight. We had been exploring various ideas and making preparations for several years. We started by envisioning what the next president would be like. As that image became more concrete, then we began choosing names.

I think the next president was decided through a very good transition process. Then it became a question of who would be chairman.

Initially, we disagreed. But Akio Toyoda needs to spread his wings wider, beyond even the Toyota Group’s 370,000 employees or the 5.5 million (in the auto industry) to the Japanese industry as a whole. Of course, while also looking after himself.

To do that, however, I think he needs to carry a fitting title, such as chairman of Toyota Motor Corporation. Personally, I feel that things have settled into a good place.