Koji Sato is coming in as Toyota’s new CEO. He is coming over from president of Lexus International. And Toyota’s current beloved CEO for the last 13 years, Akio Toyoda, will be moving on as chairman. Passion-wise… it seems like Koji Sato shares a lot of car-enthusiast fundamentals with Akio Toyoda. Talking to friends on the inside, it seems like the two of them are kind of… two peas in a pod. Two people making cars… who love driving cars. Koji Sato helped build the Gazoo (GR) brand… and he is currently also president of Gazoo Racing Company. It’s not rare to see Koji or Akio at the track.

But now the question yet to be answered is:

What kind of leader will Koji Sato be over Toyota? There’s little doubt he was probably influenced, pressured, and instructed on which direction Toyota would be taking before we was allowed to accept the position. And we all know that direction – is electrification. So will Koji Sato be given the leash to truly lead Toyota to the best of his abilities? Or has he been hired to be a yes man amidst an EV-reset? 

Toyota has been getting massive pressure & criticism from EV activists…

For not embracing the frantic-paced EV agenda. Even though Toyota pioneered hybrids with the Prius, now, Akio & Toyota have been criticized for even questioning a full-scale switchover to EVs… and for not rushing EVs to market faster. Akio, however, is a true lifelong professional in the automotive industry. Most of the demanding EV activists… are not. We ought to listen to the industry professionals & take their thoughts into consideration – not criticize & silence them because their wisdom doesn’t align with the agenda. 

Akio Toyoda

Akio Toyoda understands car-making, and he understands Toyota’s customers…

But there is absolutely no doubt that Akio was heavily criticized for not moving towards electrification faster. You can be on the ride side of the battle… and still lose it. Akio Toyoda led Toyota with a poise, careful wisdom, and confidence that was inspiring. And Toyota has emerged in the early 2020s as the strongest automotive manufacturer because of it. Akio is a tremendous leader… one that is rare to find in the large corporations of the 21st century. So… 

Has Koji Sato learned enough of the right things from Akio Toyoda?

I damn sure hope so. However, it is very likely that Toyota will turn on the boosters & play catch-up on electrification. The question is, will Koji Sato be able to take Toyota into the future’ (as they say)… without sacrificing and/or diluting Toyota’s core elements & philosophy? I’ll tell you this much: In my opinion, damn near every other car manufacturer who has tried… has failed. I sincerely hope that Koji Sato does not to get pulled in so many directions, that he loses his way. 

The optimistic & eager side of me has faith that… 

With Akio Toyoda as chairman and Koji Sato as CEO, Toyota is in very good hands, and the Toyota philosophy will remain strong… if not get even strengthen. But the harder side of me says that respect is earned. Akio earned it. So we’ll have to wait, optimistically, and see what Koji Sato does in his new position at Toyota.

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