Toyota is working to foster candidates capable of eventually taking the top job, President Akio Toyoda told shareholders at an annual meeting.
The world’s No. 1 automaker is taking steps to find and develop potential successors, Toyoda, 66, said in response to a shareholder’s question at corporate headquarters Wednesday.
Anyone following in his footsteps must have “unshakable conviction on why Toyota exists” and a firm understanding of the company’s philosophy, Toyoda said, adding that his goal will be to “rejuvenate” management with the move.
Toyoda has sought to reform Toyota's corporate culture, spending more time with younger executives, and cutting back some senior positions.
The brief question-and-answer moment shines light on a topic that’s been top of mind for some Toyota investors and analysts over the past few years: Who is in line to replace the automaker’s current president who, over the past 13 years, has captained its rise to record profit and pole position as Japan’s most valuable company.
Toyoda, grandson of the founder, is the second-longest tenured head of a major automotive company, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. He took the reins at Toyota in 2009, shortly after Elon Musk assumed his post at Tesla.
Steps in March to create a new “executive vice president” role has fueled mild speculation on the company’s succession plans, and whether the three men selected for the position -- Chief Financial Officer Kenta Kon, Chief Technology Officer Masahiko Maeda and Chief Human Resources Officer Masanori Kuwata -- are being groomed as candidates for the top job.
In 2020, Toyoda appointed company veterans Maeda and Kon to top roles. Both were 51 at the time -- a relatively young age for top Toyota executives.
Koji Kobayashi, an operating officer who spoke at Wednesday’s shareholders meeting, declined to say who may be in the succession pipeline. Instead, he took a few minutes to reflect on Toyoda’s tenure, saying that the executive helmed the company through “crises, one after another.”
While others may have been overwhelmed, Toyoda was “energized,” he said. Now, he is starting to “plant seeds for the future, with three young executive vice presidents and other executives,” Kobayashi added.