TOYOTA CITY, Japan — Akio Toyoda is wrapping up his first decade at the helm of Japan's largest automaker, and he is likely to keep his hand on the wheel for quite a bit longer.
Why? Because he still hasn't found the right person to take over.
"From day one of becoming president, I have been always looking for my successor," the Toyota Motor Corp. boss said. "But after 10 years, I find that it is even more difficult to find the right one."
Toyoda says he is just getting started on a "full model change" of the company his grandfather founded 82 years ago. His new mission is to create the bedrock of a next-generation carmaker to allow his successor to focus on future mobility from the first day in office.
"If I may use an automotive analogy, my mission is to lead the company itself through a full model change," Toyoda said. "By the time I pass the baton to the next president, I hope this cultural reform is complete so they can start sharply focused on the future from day one."
Speaking April 10 with Automotive News from his office in Toyota City, the 62-year-old chief said he "will continue for some time" in his current role, reinventing the company.
As part of the overhaul, he speculated about someday even changing the company's name from Toyota Motor Corp. to Toyota Mobility Corp.
That will be up to his successor.
"That could also happen. But probably not during my time," he said.
Such out-of-box thinking is exactly what Toyoda wants to nurture. And he sees himself as having the freedom to force the change.
"More important than what's being said is who is saying it," Toyoda said. "As we prepare for this once-in-a-century transformation, sometimes this family name proves quite useful."