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01:55 - Source: CNN
Hong Kong CNN  — 

Toyota’s longtime president and CEO Akio Toyoda is stepping down and handing over the reins of the world’s largest automaker to Lexus chief Koji Sato.

The Japanese company announced the shakeup Thursday, saying that Toyoda would be appointed chairman of the board as Sato takes over daily management. Takeshi Uchiyamada, Toyota’s current chairman, will resign from his post but remain on the board, the company said. The changes are set to take effect on April 1.

The leadership reshuffle marks the end of an era.

Toyoda, a grandson of the company’s founder, took the helm as president in June 2009, after gaining experience “in every phase of automotive operations, including production, marketing and product development, both in Japan and internationally,” according to Toyota.

But Toyoda alluded to a tough tenure during a press conference in Japan on Thursday, saying: “When I look back on my last 13 years as president, there was never a day that was peaceful.”

“Never did I experience a calm and peaceful year,” he said, saying that he did not always feel “welcomed as president,” and that it was tough to hear criticism of his leadership.

“I believe that over the past 13 years, I have built a solid foundation for passing the baton forward.”

Akio Toyoda, president of Toyota, speaking at the company's showroom in Tokyo on Dec. 14, 2021.

The 66-year old CEO has previously said that he preferred working “with the factory guys” on the assembly line to “sitting in an office.”

The regime change comes as Toyota is being scrutinized for lagging in the electric vehicle race.

Unlike other automakers that are going all-in on EVs, Toyota has previously said it’s still not convinced that’s the best path forward.

Koji Sato speaking at the Tokyo Auto Salon on Jan. 13, 2023. Sato will take over as CEO of Toyota in April.

The world’s largest automaker in terms of vehicles sold, Toyota has hung back behind most other major global competitors in building fully battery powered EVs, despite its history of being a leader in hybrid vehicles.

However, the carmaker has been investing more than others in developing electric vehicles powered by on-board hydrogen fuel cells, rather than rechargeable batteries.

Sato, who currently serves as Toyota’s operating officer and chief branding officer in addition to overseeing Lexus, said Thursday that his new leadership team would be focused on turning the automaker into a full-fledged “mobility company.”

— Chris Isidore contributed to this report.