Covering Toyota During Milestone Year 2020


Starting from January 2019, Teruyuki Kagawa was appointed Editor-in-Chief of Toyota Times. His first interview was with President Akio Toyoda at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit that same month. Since that time Kagawa has tirelessly visited Nürburgring, Silicon Valley, and other work sites that are considered key to Toyota’s auto manufacturing. During his visits and time with Toyota, he has been seeking to find the true essence of Toyota, a company currently aiming to become a “mobility company.” In this article, we explore the results of Kagawa’s year-long efforts, learn what is he pursuing this year, and his thoughts on related topics.

Q. After a year of reporting on Toyota as editor-in-chief, will you please share with us your impressions?

Initially, I didn’t expect that I would be looking deeply into so many different things. It was only a year ago that I first heard the unfamiliar phrase “mobility company” with very little knowledge of anything. This is where I started from, but I have developed a very clear image of what Toyota’s concepts are as each was presented to me.

I have become much more aware of the types of cutting-edge technologies the automobile industry has, such as automated driving. After being able to learn more detailed information than I initially thought possible, I am now looking forward to how those technologies will develop in the future. These have truly been great opportunities for me as editor-in-chief.

Q. What impressions of President Toyoda have you gained through your reporting activities?

Thinking about it, the first time that I met President Toyoda was in Detroit. I never imagined riding in the GR Supra that I saw at that time with President Toyoda as the driver.

In any case, it is clear to me that he loves cars, he thinks about the future of cars, and he is 100% committed to a bright future concerning the relationship between Japan, its people, and cars. Over the past year, my observation is that he has the position, knowledge, and all he needs [to fulfill his role] and that he means business. My impression is that he devotes all his energy and puts everything on the line. He even does things that ordinarily don’t need to be done.

When he talks about himself, He says things like, “I’m not nearly good enough, and it’s the executive vice presidents and all the employees who support me.” My impression in general of top management at other companies is that other presidents are not aware of various things, and so many company presidents do not really work in the same way he does.

To me, President Toyoda is the type of person who is willing to stand on the front lines and get covered in dirt and mud, and he has incorporated his work into all 24 hours of the day. I think that the opinions he expressed while driving today were more telling than anything else.

Q. How was it riding in the three cars that he drove you around in today?

Each car had a completely different feeling. It was hard to believe that it was the same car [I might be driving]. I feel like I was able to gain a sense of just how broad the definition of an automobile is, which, of course, also applies to Toyota.

When riding in the Supra, I felt that the power was directed toward the sides, and then to the front. The 86 I rode in had racing specifications. During that ride, I felt some nostalgia for a manual transmission car, with the playfulness and looseness providing the feeling of just what makes it different from other cars.

From my own past, I remember driving a manual when I was just learning how to drive. You know, the times when the engine stalled, trying to start from a stop when going uphill, and parallel parking. The accelerator and clutch had the same feeling. These feelings easily come to my mind even now, and as a member of a generation that learned how to drive a manual, I was able to get a renewed sense of the broad definition of what an automobile is from riding in such a car.

The Mirai is truly a car of the future—the sounds of nature are louder than the car and it feels like you’re cruising on a yacht. There were cameras on the windows in the test drive model, which prevented us from opening the windows, but I think that if we could have opened all four windows, the sound of the birds singing in Shimoyama would have been louder than the car. When I think of this kind of car, it seems clear that this will be one option for the future.

After riding in these three different cars, it felt like I had been shown the past, present, and future of cars which was centered around Toyota.

But since I’m from the gasoline-powered vehicle generation, I really liked the feel of the Supra, including the sound.

Q. What types of reporting activities will you pursue this year?

In 2019, during my first year as editor-in-chief of Toyota Times, I took a trip to Toyota’s past from a variety of perspectives that included considering what a mobility company is, with particular focuses on automated driving as well as what is considered the essence of Toyota as viewed from the perspective of examining what is considered “a good car.”

At the same time, however, I was also shown what the future holds. Having been introduced to this, in 2020, I want to take on the broader view of how things will change in the future. I’m interested in what developments will occur, and how will they unfold.

As you know, the Olympic and Paralympic Games will be held in Tokyo this year, which makes this a milestone year for Japan and Toyota. It will be a year that is talked about for generations to come. People will be saying, “This is how things were in 2020…,” and I feel that this year will be an important turning point and the start of many things to come.

As it turns out, Toyota is a worldwide partner of the Olympic and Paralympic Games and is supporting athletes. Of course, there is a monetary or financial element, but I am certain that President Toyoda is committed to supporting this major event from a variety of perspectives.

In this sense, I want to see how Toyota’s roots will connect to this Olympics year. There has been much discussion about the cars of the future: the time will come for battery electric vehicles, hydrogen fuel cell vehicles, and autonomous driving vehicles. As President Toyoda mentioned in the video, Toyota will launch the Mirai this year. It makes me wonder what specific strategies will appear, and what developments might occur. My hope is to be able to report on these as they happen in real time.

We are in a milestone year, and I feel that this is true for automobiles as well. To uncover what milestones there are in this area, I will do my best to cover the changes in real-time and ask the right questions.

Hopefully, as editor-in-chief of Toyota Times, I will be able to spot developments occurring within Toyota, while considering these topics during this milestone year where the Olympics will take place in Tokyo, as well as including things that are happening all over the world.