Koji Sato is stepping into the top job at Toyota, and one of his first acts will be to strengthen the Japanese giant’s focus on electric vehicles.

Lexus will lead the transformation, with the luxury brand already confirmed to be going EV-only by 2035.

“To deliver attractive BEVs to more customers, we must streamline the structure of the car, and―with a BEV-first mindset―we must drastically change the way we do business, from manufacturing to sales and service,” said Sato-san, who takes the reins on April 1, 2023.

Toyota says it’s transforming into a “mobility company” but isn’t moving away from what it calls its “omni-directional” or “multi-pathway” approach, wherein EVs are one of many types of propulsion types.

The company currently offers a wide range of hybrids, as well as plug-in hybrid and hydrogen fuel-cell electric vehicles in some markets.

It also says it’s prioritising diversification, acknowledging the fact customer needs differ from market to market.

Toyota has previously confirmed it will launch 30 EVs by 2030, by which point it wants to be selling at least 3.5 million EVs globally each year.

“Now that the time is right, we will accelerate BEV development with a new approach,” said Sato-san.

“Specifically, we will develop next-generation BEVs for Lexus brand by 2026, with everything from the battery and platform to how a car is built optimised for BEVs, while expanding our current BEV lineup.”

In addition to strengthening its EV development, Toyota is aiming to accelerate development of its Arene software platform with subsidiary Woven and work towards carbon neutrality in Asia.

Toyota has confirmed what its senior leadership team will look like from April 1, with Sato-san becoming president and CEO, Hiroki Nakajima becoming chief technology officer and Kazuaki Shingo assuming the role of chief production officer.

Yoichi Miyazaki will also become chief financial officer in addition to his existing role as chief competitive officer and design head Simon Humphries also receiving the title of chief branding officer.

Sato-san thanked outgoing president Akio Toyoda for his “product-centred and region-centred management”.

“Over the past 13 years, by taking on many challenges and experiencing many failures on the front lines, we have continued to learn from various perspectives the values of making ever-better cars and being the best carmaker in town,” he said.

“Thanks to that, at Toyota, we now have many people capable of managing the company. That is why, as we apply one-team management, we will go full strength in engaging in ‘inheritance and evolution’.”

Toyota has come under fire in recent years for alleged greenwashing and anti-EV lobbying efforts.

For example, The New York Times reported in 2021 that Toyota sent Chris Reynolds, a senior executive overseeing government affairs, to Washington D.C. to lobby against an aggressive transition to electric vehicles in favour of a bigger role for hybrids and hydrogen fuel-cell vehicles.

Though it’s offered some electric conversions of existing vehicles – including a low-volume RAV4 EV over a decade ago and, more recently, an electric C-HR for China – its first clean-sheet EV is the new bZ4x that’s due here this year. That’s made it a relative laggard in the EV space.

William Stopford

William Stopford is an automotive journalist based in Brisbane, Australia. William is a Business/Journalism graduate from the Queensland University of Technology who loves to travel, briefly lived in the US, and has a particular interest in the American car industry.

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