In January 2023, Toyota announced major changes in its executive structure. Akio Toyoda left his CEO role to become the company’s chairman, and now we're learning a bit about the challenges and concerns he faced during his tenure. At the Japan Mobility Show, Toyoda answered questions from dealer representatives, journalists, and other guests, and some of those answers were rather frank.
On a few occasions, Toyoda talked about how difficult it was for him to change the way the company operated in terms of new product development. This a process he started 14 years ago, when Lexus unveiled the then-new GS and the predominant feedback was that the brand was boring. He also heard reactions from European automakers testing new vehicles at the Nurburgring, which looked at Toyota’s projects and commented that “Toyota can’t do it.”
This was just the tip of the iceberg. Convinced that the company needed to evolve and develop more exciting cars, Toyoda worked with the firm’s executives and engineers and made them more receptive to his concerns. At the time, Toyoda also started testing most of the brand’s new vehicles personally, giving the R&D department direct feedback.
Toyota is now a very different brand from what it was when Toyoda became CEO, offering exciting products like the Supra, the Yaris GR, and even the new Crown range. But with the change come new fears. The company chairman is worried things could revert to old ways when he entered the scene 14 years ago.
Gallery: 2024 Toyota GR Supra
“I constantly fear that Toyota will go back to being an ordinary company," he said, according to Toyota Times. "When that fear spreads to many people, it will be too late. Even with the title of president, it took me 14 years to change Toyota, but things could revert in a flash.”