Toyota Motor Corp. will promote director Koji Sato to president effective April 1, replacing Akio Toyoda, who will become chairman, the automaker said Thursday, marking the first change in leadership in nearly 14 years.

The move comes as the automaker, which is aiming to expand sales of electrified vehicles in line with its decarbonization goals, has seen fruit in its efforts to improve product competitiveness and profit structure.

The current chairman, Takeshi Uchiyamada, 76, will step down but remain a board member.

Toyoda, 66, said in a press release that the leadership change was prompted by Uchiyamada's intention to retire, saying, "I felt it would be best for me to become chairman to support the new president in further reforming Toyota."

(From L) Toyota Motor Corp. President Akio Toyoda, Operating Officer Koji Sato and Chairman Takeshi Uchiyamada. (Photo courtesy of Toyota Motor)(Kyodo)

Sato, 53, who currently oversees the group's Lexus luxury brand operations and Toyota's motorsport brand Gazoo Racing, expressed his desire to "propose a new form of mobility."

Toyoda, the great-grandson of Toyota group founder Sakichi Toyoda, became the first founding family member in 14 years to take the helm of the nation's largest automaker when he was appointed CEO in June 2009.

He was entrusted with rebuilding the company in the aftermath of the so-called Lehman shock. The U.S. Congress also summoned him over acceleration problems in Toyota vehicles that resulted in the recall of millions of cars.

While Toyoda's management reforms helped Toyota maintain a dominant presence in the auto industry, it lags behind foreign competitors, such as Tesla Inc., in the growing electric vehicle market.

Pursuing an "all-round strategy" for decarbonization by expanding its business in EVs and other eco-friendly cars, Toyota is also working to develop a commercially viable vehicle powered by a hydrogen engine under Sato's leadership.

Sato, who graduated from Waseda University with a Bachelor's in mechanical engineering, joined Toyota in 1992. He was promoted to operating officer and appointed chief branding officer in January 2021 after serving in various other posts.

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