Akio Toyoda on Japanese Political Leadership


On September 18, just before Toyota’s hydrogen-engine-powered Corolla Sport entered its third race—Round 5 of the Super Taikyu Series 2021 at Suzuka Circuit—Toyota held a press conference to explain the progress of its hydrogen-powered engine development and some of its collaborative efforts with new partners.

President Akio Toyoda, in his driving suit, took the stage and answered questions about initiatives for achieving carbon neutrality and the evolution of hydrogen-powered engines.

During the press conference, one question seemed a little unrelated to the topic of motorsports or carbon neutrality: it was about the September 29 presidential election of Japan’s ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), the process for which officially started the day before on September 17. (Note from the editor: The president of Japan’s ruling political party holds the post of prime minister and is the government leader of Japan.)

Akio responded by explaining how he views the recent situation of Japan and what kind of leadership he expects from Japan’s political leaders. Toyota Times would like to share Akio’s response with its readers before the main article on the hydrogen-powered engine’s third challenge to be posted separately.

—What are your expectations upon seeing the ongoing debate related to the LDP presidential election, and what are your thoughts about leadership for Japan?


One thing I would like to remind you of is that the reality in this country has not changed since the outbreak of COVID-19 last year. The media and politicians spent much time talking about whether the Olympic and Paralympic Games Tokyo 2020 would be held or not as their next serious topic following talk about the pandemic.

And once the Games started, the main topic quickly shifted to focusing on inspiring stories from the competitions, and after the Games ended, all of a sudden, it’s now the turn of the presidential election, on which the media is currently focused. Yet, the reality for our nation’s people has not changed.

The reality is that people are having to endure much patience and sacrifice, with companies going under and people losing their jobs.

Amid such, hardworking people and companies are going unrewarded, or even worse, adversely suffering losses. To me, that’s Japan’s current situation. I certainly don’t want this country to be like that moving forward.

We are not asking our country’s leaders to come up with all the right answers. I think everyone in this country understands that we’re now in an uncharted world.

So, rather than asking our political leaders to come up with all the right answers, I would like to ask them to make this country a place where hardworking people can feel that tomorrow (and the future) will be better. That’s all that I ask.

The COVID-19 pandemic, carbon neutrality, digitalization... I believe that Japan’s challenges today need to be addressed on a national, cross-functional level.

However, government ministries and agencies are working in different ways, not in unison, and each has its separate framework. Even when it comes to carbon neutrality, there are various budgets divided among those ministries and agencies.

I would like government leaders to imagine how things would be different if all involved moved together as one.

I think this would be difficult under the current system, regardless of whoever becomes the next prime minister. So, I would like to see the current system take on a more national, cross-functional form.

Also, it seems to me that words like “investing in the future” and “growth industries” are sometimes used more like sound bites. But as we see in the SDGs’ core philosophy of creating a society in which “no one is left behind”, I look forward to seeing nation-building for a new future where people adapt to changes while respecting the values and work of the past and present.