Automotive analyst Shinya Yamamoto has been going one-on-one with this year's trio of newly appointed presidents. In this second interview, BEV Factory President Takero Kato delves into his life as a "Toyota man."
A new unit—Flying solo again?
The bZ3 was announced in October 2022. Although development was ongoing, this February, Kato received a notice from Toyota’s head office.
We were testing the car in Inner Mongolia, at around 25 degrees below zero, when an “HR interview” popped up in my scheduler.
Wondering why they wanted to see me when things were so busy, I traveled to Suzhou right away to attend the interview. On the screen were Chairman Toyoda and President Sato... They said, “Come back to the Vehicle Development Center (which handles everything from advance planning to mass-production development).”
Finishing work on the bZ3, Kato returned to the head office in April with no knowledge of what lay in store for him, beyond being part of the Vehicle Development Center.
Undaunted, he spent the first two weeks doing the rounds to get acquainted with his new workplace. Then one day, Vice President Hiroki Nakajima approached him about setting up an electric vehicle unit.
Having just arrived at the Vehicle Development Center, I asked, “We’re changing again? Who are the other members?” He told me, “Only you at the moment, so please start putting a team together.”
With a week of actual work left before the holidays, I called on existing connections and people I thought might be kindred spirits, and asked supervisors to assist in recruiting members.
I continued making preparations through Golden Week, and the BEV Factory kicked off after the holidays.
Currently, Kato is developing the next-generation BEVs scheduled for release in 2026.
At Toyota’s shareholder meeting, he was called on by the Chairman to make a comment and proceeded to declare: “I love battery EVs.” Was Kato speaking from the heart?
That was not lip service—I meant every word. Electric vehicles have unique qualities and driving performance only found in EVs.
This goes beyond the pleasure of a motor drive to the way the car seems to stick to the asphalt, in rain or shine. Such characteristics are a key part of the cruising that I love so much.
While we could not produce that with engine cars in the past, developing the bZ3 made me feel it is possible with electric vehicles. That’s the kind of car I want to make.
Takero Kato's Profile
Kato’s first car was a used fifth-generation Nissan Skyline “Japan.” After joining Toyota, he bought a Chaser while training at a dealership. This was followed by a Subaru Legacy to accompany his favorite pastime, skiing, which became a weekly activity from January through March. Even though Toyota offered a similar car at the time (the Caldina), Kato picked the Subaru in the belief that “anything with a low center of gravity was good.” Indeed, he was so impressed by the high visibility and stability on snowy roads and at high speeds that he opted for the same model again. This sparked Kato’s desire to build a car that hugs the road like a Legacy, an ideal that has carried through to the current development of Toyota’s next-generation BEVs. After the Legacies, he stayed with four-wheel drives and bought an Audi Quattro, which turned out to be “the best car I’ve driven in my life!” Alongside the passion for low center-of-gravity 4WDs, Kato’s latest interest is electric vehicles, not least his Lexus RZ (pictured above).
Shinya Yamamoto's Profile
Automotive analyst. Worked for a carmaker and tuning specialist before moving into automotive journalism. Since becoming a freelancer in 2013, he has sought to share the stories of both users and creators in an accessible and compelling way.