TOKYO — Toyota Motor Corp announced Thursday that Akio Toyoda will step down as chairman and chief executive to become chairman on April 1 and hand over the helm of Japan’s largest automaker to its chief brand executive, Koji Sato.
Sato will become the new CEO while current chairman Takeshi Uchiyamada will step down as chairman but remain on the board, Toyota said.
The question of who would succeed Toyoda, the 66-year-old grandson of the company’s founder, was increasingly at the center of investors’ concerns.
Here are some reactions to the news:
KOJI ENDO, PRINCIPAL ANALYST AT SBI SECURITIES
“I myself was surprised. Ten out of 10 analysts probably thought Toyoda would continue (as CEO) for quite some time, which came as a huge surprise. I don’t know if it was the best time for the change.
“Because Sato is 53 – very young compared to many other leaders – he wouldn’t be able to make any major changes. But the fact that he took over from Toyoda at that age suggests that Sato could continue to run the company for the next decade, so the next few years would just be a bit of a learning curve for Sato as president.
SEIJI SUGIURA, SENIOR ANALYST, TOKAI RESEARCH INSTITUTE TOKYO
“The timing was a surprise. Given that this happened after the stock price fell below 2,000 yen, there may have been a sense of stagnation leading to speculation about replacing senior management. Koji Sato is a youngster who loves cars and it feels like he was chosen to make a certain impression outside of the company.
“Day-to-day management is unlikely to change. Akio Toyoda stepping down as CEO may increase his symbolism within the company, and it may be difficult for the young, new chairman to really show his hand.
“Toyota has spent a decade increasing its value as a company, and the stock price has also increased. Pursuing the ‘Toyota Road’ will lead to stable management. It’s a bit unknown if it can push another level, this will have to be watched for the future.
HIROSHI NAMIOKA, CHIEF STRATEGIST AND FUND MANAGER AT T&D ASSET MANAGEMENT
“As seen in the case of Nidec, another Japanese manufacturer that has extensive supplier networks and is led by a charismatic founding president… The selection of the next leader is a crucial factor in the future evolution of these companies.
“Toyota’s Toyoda belonged to the founder’s family, so today’s transition was particularly symbolic. We need to keep a close eye on how Sato runs the business going forward.
TSUTOMU YAMADA, MARKET ANALYST, AT KABUCOM SECURITIES
“It was a surprising nomination. He’s so young… my first reaction was ‘how many frames has he jumped?’. It’s a big decision that no one but Akio Toyoda could make.
“This appointment could accelerate Toyota’s generation change, whether good or bad.
“I don’t think Toyota can completely change its business strategy that quickly, even under Sato’s leadership, so we would need to see progress for a while. But we could see the company with a faster decision-making process, having suffered from delayed decision-making such as an EV launch schedule.
TOSHIHIRO SUZUKI, PRESIDENT OF SUZUKI MOTOR
“I was very surprised because Chairman Toyoda made various remarks from the point of view of the automotive industry, but also from the Japanese industry. The fact that someone who has such passionate thoughts and who has done so much commentator suddenly resigns makes me wonder what will happen in the future. I wish he would continue to guide us regardless of his position.