Toyota has revised its leadership after 13 years of stability. Akio Toyoda, president and CEO of the Japanese company, has left the position to Koji Sato.
Toyoda, on the other hand, will become director of the board of directors taking the place of the outgoing Takeshi Uchiyamada. A very important change, considering how much Toyota has managed to do in the automotive sector under the leadership of the 66-year-old native of Agoya.
Official handover between Toyoda and Koji, Akio wanted to explain this important change at the top of the Japanese House.
“I would like to explain the reasons for appointing Sato as the new president. One of them is that he has worked hard from an automobile manufacturing perspective, embracing Toyota’s philosophy, techniques and practices. stands at the apex of Toyota embodied”.
“I believe that Mr. Sato, as the new president, will continue our product-focused management. Another point in his favor is youth. To promote change in an age when the future is unpredictable, the head of the management must continue to be at the forefront”.
“For this, stamina, energy and passion are essential. Being young is in itself a key attribute. I told Sato: ‘Do not try to run the company alone, but as a team’. He is not the only member of the staff that I have raised in these 13 years. I think I have nurtured many colleagues with different personalities. Innovation is essential to create the future”.
After this important change at the top, the question is: Toyoda’s farewell to the role of president and CEO of Toyota could also have repercussions on the projects and current programs of the Japanese reality in the field of motorsport, especially as regards the Old Continent with WEC and WRC?
Toyota is involved in the World Endurance Championship in the Hypercar category with the GR010, a car which, while awaiting the many manufacturers entering this year, has followed the path of its predecessors by winning titles and the 24 Hours of Le Mans without interruption.
In the WRC the situation is the same thanks to the competitiveness first of the Yaris WRC Plus and, now, of the Yaris Rally1. The first Drivers’ title came in 2019 with Ott Tanak at the helm, then, in the following three years, the double world champion by Sébastien Ogier and the last, in 2022, by 21-year-old Kalle Rovanpera, with whom he broke all precocity records in the WRC extension.
Two programs well underway, but the two championships are in very different historical moments. The WEC is in full swing, with the wind in its sails and many manufacturers entering and facing a regulation that has attracted many in a championship that until recently had collapsed after the LMP1 era.
The WRC, on the other hand, is in the midst of a complicated transition. The current regulation – the one that designs the Rally1s – has done more harm than good. Expensive cars, hybrids used less than expected, no manufacturers entered (one lost, with Citroen Racing abandoning at the end of 2019).
The promoters of the WRC have announced that a new regulation will be adopted in 2025, which however will keep the current one and the Rally1 as a basis. It will be an evolution of the current one to try to plug the holes created between 2019 and 2021.
This uncertainty is certainly not good for the WRC, nor for the manufacturers that are currently involved. That’s why the arrival of Koji Sato as president of Toyota – although he has already had the opportunity to be head of the sports section – does not guarantee the continuation of the line drawn by Toyoda in recent years. Toyota is launching the GR Yaris Rally2 in recent months, but several manufacturers have already abandoned the WRC with the official team but leaving the Customer Racing section open for the sale of machines, the Rally2, which generate profits.
Koji Sato, born in 1969, has been in Toyota Motor Corporation since 1992. From 2016 to 2020 he held important roles in Lexus, before receiving the presidency of Gazoo Racing Company, or the sports section of Toyota. A man who also had to deal with racing very closely, but for a short time.
Also, Toyoda’s advice given to him was, “Instead of trying to be like me, I’d like you to appreciate your individuality. Do things your way.”
The choice made by Toyota seems to be in continuity with the path implemented by Toyoda in recent years, but, in the world of cars and motorsport, it is good never to take anything for granted.
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