Anyone with a drivers licence knows what Toyota does.
But do you know the man behind the world’s top car manufacturer?
Akio Toyoda is president of Toyota Motor Corporation, and the grandson of the company’s founder. He is also a Babson College graduate, and member of the board on some of Asia’s most elite associations.
And he’s a billionaire.
But what else is there to learn about Akio Toyoda? Here, we’ve rounded up 9 impressive facts about the man who has kept Toyota at the top of the automotive industry for the past decade.
Akio Toyoda: 9 Things To Know About The Toyota Billionaire
1. He comes from a family of corporate giants
Born in May 1956, Akio Toyoda is the great-grandson of Sakichi Toyoda—the father of the Japanese industrial revolution.
His grandfather, Kiichiro Toyoda, founded automotive giant Toyota. His grandmother— Hatajo Shinshichi—was the daughter of one of the founders of department mega-store Takashimaya.
Toyoda’s talented family have long dominated the executive management roles of family business, despite not owning a controlling share of the Toyota corporation. When former president, Katsuaki Watanabe, was reassigned to vice-chairman—following the Toyota quality control crisis in 2009, Akio Toyoda took the reins at the company.
2. He says it’s difficult to be a Toyoda
Since joining the family business in 1984, Toyoda was told by his father and top executives at the company never to talk about his family, an interesting fact about Akio Toyoda.
As he worked his way up the ranks, learning the operations in various areas, he would avoid talking about his family and not volunteer who he was unless asked directly.
Akio has stated that it was difficult not to talk about his family when everyone else was sharing stories of their own, and it put him in many difficult positions.
Akio spoke at an investor summit in Texas in 2017, and explained a little about the pressure he had been under in taking over the Toyota top job 8 years earlier:
“Perhaps you have heard the saying that the third generation ruins everything,” he said. “It’s something I’ve heard all my life. It’s something I’m determined to prove wrong.”
3. He joined the family business in 1984.
Akio completed an undergrad diploma in law at prestigious Keio University in Tokyo, Japan. He went on to gain a Masters of Finance at Babson College, Massachusetts, before joining Toyota in 1984.
4. His great-grandfather was an inventor.
Akio’s great-grandfather was Sakichi Toyoda, a Japanese inventor and industrialist born in 1867. Sakichi was the son of a farmer and carpenter in Kosai, Shizuoka.
Sakichi founded the Toyoda Automatic Loom Works—an engineering manufacturing company—in 1926. He went on to found Toyota Industries Co., Ltd., several years later, and was renowned in his home country as the ‘King of Japanese Inventors,’ and the father of the Japanese industrial revolution, a fascinating fact about the family of Akio Toyoda.
He invented many weaving devices, and introduced innovative systems to fuel his machines. His most famous invention was the automatic power loom. Part of the mechanism used autonomous automation—Jidoka—which means that the machine automatically stops when an issue arises. This later became a part of the Toyota production system.
Sakichi had a son, Kiichiro—grandfather of Akio—who went on to establish automotive giant, Toyota.
5. Akio loves racing.
Akio is a car-racing enthusiast, and even drives race cars himself. He has driven in the ADAC 24-Stunden-Rennen 2009, under the pseudonym Morizo Kinoshita, and placed 4th in class with his LF-A Prototype Number 14. He has also promoted Toyota-owned Lexus sports models, like the Lexus IS-F and LF-A.
He was also named Autocar magazine’s Man of the Year in 2012, for his contribution to the automotive industry.
6. He was deeply sorry for the quality control crisis.
Leading up to 2010, global automobile recalls had ballooned to 8.5 million vehicles. Toyoda was called to testify before U.S. Congress, and issued a statement. The statement focused on several key areas:
- Toyota’s philosophy on quality control
- The cause of the recalls, and
- How Toyota would manage quality control moving forward.
As the head of a family famed for the pivotal role they played in automated engineering, Toyoda took these issues very seriously. When he testified before the House of Representatives’ Oversight and Government Reform Committee in February of that year, he said he was ‘deeply sorry’ for how this affected relations between Toyota Motor Corp. and the United States.
7. He worked in many areas of the family business.
After joining the company in 1984, Toyoda spent nearly two decades becoming acquainted with the various components of operations—both in Japan and internationally. He worked in automotive operations, production, and product development. He moved into marketing, and then went on to become the executive vice president at New United Motor Manufacturing, Inc. (NUMMI) in California.
He returned to Japan in 2000 to join the Toyota Board of Directors, and oversee domestic marketing. He moved in to production management consulting and supervising gazoo.com.
In 2002, after a year as chief officer of the Asia & China Operations Center, he became managing director. The following year he was made senior managing officer, then on to chief officer of the Asia, Oceania & Middle East Operations Group.
From 2003 until he came president of the company in 2009, he also supervised IT & ITS, quality control, product management, purchasing, Japan sales, overseas sales, and overseas operations.
Under his leadership, Toyota has become the top automaker worldwide—with $228 billion in revenue. In second place, Volkswagen come in at $222 billion in revenue.
8. Akio is a realist.
In his own words, Akio explains, “I can always be fired.”
Toyoda has only a minority holding in the family business, so he has the added pressure of not falling back on a controlling stake in the company.
He feels that it is his duty, every day, to make sure that the stakeholders—investors, employees, customers, suppliers, and board members—are happy to have him in his senior position, a unique fact about Akio Toyoda.
If things go wrong, or if he performs badly, he knows that there is a possibility he could be fired. However, being fired from the role would still give him some influence on the company. Traditionally, the outgoing president becomes chairman of the Toyota Motor Corporation board.
Now we know how Akio Toyoda rose to the top spot of the top motor company in the world—and what he’s done to earn his $1.86 million salary. Now in his 60s, he has yet to choose a successor to take over his role, and plans to continue with the company for several more years. His son, Daisuke Toyoda, is currently learning the ropes at the Toyota Research Institute.
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