Copy of 2023-01-13T010931Z_1370967801_RC2CPY9E7VX1_RTRMADP_3_JAPAN-AUTOS-1674721276452
Toyota's GAZOO Racing Company President Koji Sato speaks during an event for Toyota GAZOO Racing and LEXUS at Tokyo Auto Salon 2023 at Makuhari Messe in Chiba, east of Tokyo Image Credit: REUTERS

Tokyo: Toyota Motor Corp. is promoting Lexus President Koji Sato, 53, as CEO to replace Akio Toyoda and navigate the Japanese carmaker through the challenges of electrification and automation that are disrupting the global auto industry.

Toyoda, 66, the grandson of the Japanese carmaker’s founder, will become chairman effective April 1, the company said in a statement Thursday. He became CEO in 2009 and oversaw the company’s rise to become the world’s No. 1 automaker.

“The social and economic environment has become more volatile, and by becoming chairman, Akio Toyoda will be able to take a broader view of management,” said Mitsushige Akino, an analyst at Ichiyoshi Asset Management Co. “Stronger management will be good for Toyota. By appointing Sato, who isn’t a senior officer, as CEO, the message is that younger people should take over.”

Sato was appointed chief branding officer at Toyota in January 2021, according to the carmaker’s website. After graduating from Waseda University with a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering in March 1992, he joined Toyota in April of the same year.

In early 2016, Sato was appointed chief engineer of Lexus International Co., and in April the following year, ascended to chief of the luxury arm. In September 2020, Sato was also appointed president of Gazoo Racing, Toyota’s motorsport and performance road car brand.

Takeshi Uchiyamada, the current chairman, will step down and remain on the board, the company said.