Toyota Motor Corp. announced a series of executive changes that will remove the company’s incumbent president from the Japanese automaker’s key executive post and replace him with a member of the company’s founding family.
Akio Toyoda, now Toyota executive vice president, will replace Katsuaki Watanabe as Toyota’s president in June after the company annual general shareholder’s meeting. Fuji Cho, a Toyota veteran, wil retain the chairmanship of Toyota’s board. Watanabe, an intensely ambitious executive who oversaw Toyota’s bid to overtake General Motors Corp. as the world’s largest carmaker, will move into the position of vice chairman.
Reports that Watanabe would be sidelined have been circulating in Japan and throughout the auto industry ever since last month when Toyota reported its largest financial loss in 70 years. Ironically, the loss, which was triggered by worldwide recession and a disastrous decline in sales in the U.S., came just as Toyota appeared to have reached its goal of surpassing General Motors to become the world’s largest automakers. The flagship Toyota division also became the best-selling automotive brand in the U.S. last year for the first time and Toyota – including luxury marque Lexus and the youth-oriented Scion – has replaced Ford as the second largest carmaker in the U.S., capturing almost 16. 5 percent share.