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New Toyota President to Helm Firm Amid Fierce Competition

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Toyota Motor Corp. President Akio Toyoda, center, and his designated successor Koji Sato, left, take part in a Toyota Times News online press conference.

Toyota Motor Corp. presidential designate Koji Sato will likely have to contend with fierce competition from various industries when he takes the company helm in April.

The auto industry is in the midst of a “once-a-century” major transformation: Growing demand for decarbonized travel is accelerating the development of electric vehicles (EVs), while the proliferation of vehicles with a permanent connection to the internet and the development of self-driving technology are also driving progress.

Currently, the EV field is led by foreign automakers. According to research firm MarkLines Co., among all vehicle sales for the first 11 months of 2022— including estimates — EVs accounted for 21.1% in China, 10.3% in Europe and 5.8% in the United States. The rise of such industry giants as Tesla Inc. of the United States and BYD Co. of China has been particularly conspicuous. In Japan, however, EVs only accounted for 1.7% of sales in 2022.

Japan has lagged in bringing new EVs to the market and has a poor recharging environment. “Japan is already a lap behind the competition,” one leading automaker executive said.

The car industry is increasingly responding to the shift toward EVs. Last year, Honda Motor Co. began collaborating with Sony Group on an EV venture. The resulting prototype was unveiled this month, with a tentative launch date of 2025, or later.

French auto giant Renault SA, meanwhile, plans to spin off its EV division in 2023 and create a new Europe-based company. Renault is seeking to partner with Nissan Motor Co.’s on the new company, and negotiations are already at an advanced stage, including on such points as equity participation.

A number of U.S. industry players are expected to throw their hats into the EV ring, such as IT giant Apple Inc.