Succession: Akio Toyoda hands over at Toyota

STORY: He’s the grandson of the founder, and a true titan of the industry.

But the question of who should replace Akio Toyoda at the top of Toyota had become a growing concern for analysts.

Now we have the answer.

The auto giant held a webcast Thursday (January 26) to announce its veteran boss would step down as chief executive, and become chairman.

Toyoda said he would be succeeded by chief branding officer Koji Sato from the start of April:

"He has worked hard in the workplaces of car-making to embrace Toyota’s philosophy, techniques, and practices. Those are exactly the traits I would want whoever stands at the top of Toyota to embody."

Under Toyoda, now 66, the firm had faced criticism for going slow on electric vehicles.

The company pioneered hybrids with the Prius, and argued such technology remained important.

That approach was condemned by investors and activists who once praised Toyota for its technology and environmental record.

Now Toyoda says Sato’s mission will be to transform Toyota into a “mobility company”, though he didn’t spell out exactly what that would mean.

Over more than a decade, Toyoda presided over a period of huge change, including the move to EVs and the challenge of upstart brands like Tesla.

He says he faced “crisis after crisis” when he took over in 2009, including global recession and the giant earthquake in Japan in 2011.

Analysts expect him to remain heavily involved after he becomes chairman.

Sato, who has been at Toyota since 1992, said he had a passion for the role:

"When talking about doing things ‘my way’, that means I am an engineer and have long been involved in car-making. I love making cars."

At 53, he's a relatively youthful boss for Japan.

One industry watcher said Sato's first few years as CEO would be an "apprenticeship" to the old master.