“There was never a day that was peaceful,” Toyoda said, looking back.
Toyoda reacted by taking an “intentional pause” on rampant expansion to regroup by nailing down quality and improving product. By pursuing a more sustainable pace, Toyota soon was on the path toward new heights of earnings, sales and accolades.
In recent years, Toyoda has stepped up its race in electrification, investing billions of dollars in electric cars and batteries toward the goal of selling 3.5 million EVs a year in 2030.
He became president of both Lexus International Co. and Gazoo Racing Company. In those roles, he can often be seen hobnobbing with Toyoda trackside at various racing event, some of which Toyoda participates in as a driver of developmental carbon neutral cars.
In closely working with Toyoda, Sato has imbibed much of his outlook and ethic, indicating he will champion key elements of the Toyota way. Speaking of his boss in an interview last year, Sato said, “He is the guiding person showing the team the vision and philosophy of the brand… Akio’s sensors as the master driver are critically important.”
Yet, Sato is also a leader not afraid to shake things up.
In speaking to Automotive News shortly after he took over Lexus, he said Toyoda tasked him with one simple straight-forward mission: “Make some change.” At Lexus that translated into something sexy.
“If the question is eco or emotion, I choose emotion,” Sato said.
Toyoda said it would be important of Sato to manage the company as a team, not as a one-man show. The marching orders may signal a contrast to Toyoda’s own management style.
“Up until now, I was able to use my own personal skills to lead the company to this point,” Toyoda said. “But I think it shouldn’t always be under me. There should be a new team that combines their strengths and brings Toyota to the next stage.”