Koji Sato has announced his new leadership team and things are about to get interesting.
Toyota's incoming CEO, Koji Sato, has announced his new management team and pledged to "drastically change the way we do business" regarding manufacturing, sales, and a more aggressive battery-electric-vehicle rollout plan. Sato further confirmed the new EV launch schedule will center on a next-generation platform expected to arrive in 2026.
The inbound CEO, who will replace Akio Toyoda on April 1 as the latter steps into the chairman role, also appointed a new top executive to lead Lexus - Sato's former role - in Takashi Watanabe. The luxury brand has been tasked with taking charge of the EV transformation.
"To deliver attractive BEVs to more customers, we must streamline the structure of the car, and - with a BEV-first mindset - we must drastically change the way we do business, from manufacturing to sales and service. Lexus will lead this transformation," he said.
The three critical components of Sato's strategy are the following: Ramping up Toyota's EV strategy, strengthening Woven-related software-focused programs, and a focus on achieving carbon neutrality in Asia.
Sato's big plans, however, do not exclude Toyota's diverse powertrain strategy, meaning hybrids, plug-in hybrids, and hydrogen-powered vehicles will continue to play key roles alongside the EV push. The automaker, under the leadership of Toyoda for 13 years, has been criticized by investors and environmental groups for not taking a more aggressive EV strategy approach, but Toyoda has repeatedly claimed that combustion is not the enemy, carbon emissions are.
Sato's announcement aims to calm those concerns. Currently, the automaker's only BEV is the bZ4X, but more are coming, and a broad hybridization strategy includes the completely redesigned Prius and Prius Prime plug-in.
Interestingly, Sato said his more aggressive EV strategy is not entirely the result of outside pressure and rising competition from the likes of GM, VW, and Tesla but is rather more of an opportunity to develop BEVs for the next generation of buyers and to cement Toyota's brand identity as a high-quality and affordable automaker.
Sato, who currently heads Lexus and the Gazoo Motorsports program, is adamant Toyota must "streamline" its strategy by having an EV-first mentality. This will also change the way Toyota does business. The upcoming new CEO did not offer precise details concerning this, but things like direct online sales could very well be in the mix. More information will be announced sometime after Sato assumes office.
Plans remain in place for Lexus to be fully electrified in all markets by 2035 and to sell 1 million EVs globally by 2030.
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