TOKYO – The man who engineered one of Lexus’ sexiest cars is now taking the helm of the entire luxury brand as part of a personnel shuffle at Toyota Motor.
Koji Sato, 50, currently executive vice president and chief engineer of Lexus International, will become president, effective Jan. 1, Toyota said in a Wednesday statement.
Sato is best known as the chief engineer of the super sleek Lexus LC sports coupe and for his work developing the GA-L platform for rear-wheel drive Lexus vehicles, including the LS sedan.
He replaces Yoshihiro Sawa, 62, and will retain his title as Lexus chief engineer. Sawa, recognizable for his Beethoven-like white mane, has been president of Lexus since 2017.
Among other changes announced by Toyota, Hiroki Nakajima will become president of Toyota’s Mid-size Vehicle Co., an important internal division that develops such vehicles as the Toyota Camry sedan. Nakajima, 57, is currently executive vice president of the unit.
Nakajima takes the reins from Moritaka Yoshida, 62, an executive vice president who is assuming new duties as the president of Toyota’s Production Engineering Development Center and as chairman of its Emerging-market Compact Car Co. Yoshida will continue in his concurrent role as president of Vehicle Development Center.
Also tapped for promotion is James Kuffner, the American computer guru who is CEO of the Tokyo-based Toyota Research Institute – Advanced Development Inc., the Toyota spin-off that develops the software and systems needed to operate autonomous vehicles. Kuffner will keep that role but also be appointed senior fellow at Toyota’s Advanced R&D and Engineering Co.
EDITOR|S NOTE: An earlier version of this story used an incorrect image.