Toyota is in transition with a new name at the forefront

For the first time in 14 years, there is change at the top of Toyota. As Koji Sato collects the keys from Akio Toyoda, what can we expect? Excerpted from the May 2023 issue of Car and Driver.

When Akio Toyoda took over as CEO of Toyota Motor Corporation in 2009, the company was not in a good place. Yes, it led world car production at 7.2 million, ahead of GM’s 6.5 million. But Toyota, which is reeling from a global recession, has just reported its first financial loss in decades and is embroiled in an unexpected speed-up dispute, which will result in a $1.2 billion fine in the United States.

Then things got worse. In 2011, the Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami devastated Japan’s east coast, damaging or destroying three Toyota factories and knocking many suppliers online.

Visiting the ruins soon after, Toyoda said he was “absolutely crushed” by any other challenge he faced. Toyota’s production stumbled that year, and the company fell to third place. But the following year, the production rate went back up.

Toyota offers only one electric car in the world market, the bZ4X. It still plans to make internal electric cars by 2050 and says that using a 100.0kWh battery to make six plug-in hybrids or 90 hybrids instead of one EV results in greater carbon dioxide reduction. Today,

Toyota outsells Volkswagen as the second largest carmaker with about 2 million vehicles sold each year. At the time of this writing, it is also the second most valuable car manufacturer in the world,

In addition to carrying Toyota through the earthquake and global financial crisis, Toyoda won over enthusiasts, racing under its subsidiary, Morizo, with performance cars ranging from the Lexus LFA to the GR New Corolla.

While we don’t complain about other performance, some experts think that Koji Sato may be forced to hold when it comes to EV.

While many automakers around the world are throwing their weight behind battery-powered cars in preparation for the upcoming solar power in markets like California and New York, Toyota is leading the way. electric car in the world market, bZ4X (Lexus offers a friendly model. RZ450e).

Instead, Toyota has taken a more measured approach to electric power, relying on hybrids and plug-in hybrids. He argues that using a 100.0 kWh battery to run six plug-in hybrids or 90 hybrids instead of one EV results in greater carbon dioxide reduction.

Toyota still plans to make internal combustion engines by 2050, but with emissions reduced by 90%. Toyota, under Toyoda, has also invested in hydrogen fuel cell technology. Toyoda even drives a Yaris that uses hydrogen combustion.

“Carbon neutrality is not about having one choice, it’s about making that choice open,” he said. But with no official support for hydrogen vehicles in the United States, it’s hard to see fuel cells as an option here.

Sato’s opening statement seems to confirm this. “Cars are made with the will and effort of people,” Sato said earlier this year at a press conference where he announced his vision for Toyota. “I want to be the president who will continue in this group, working together to create cars.”

What about Toyoda’s passion for sports cars? “If Morizo ​​is someone who likes to drive,” Sato said, “I’m someone who likes to make cars that make drivers smile.” I hope that means cheap and fun performance cars will continue, with or without tailgates.