TOKYO — Akio Toyoda praised former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, assassinated Friday in a rare shooting on the street in Japan, for his leadership in trying to revive the country's economy.
Abe, Japan's longest-serving prime minster, was gunned down shortly before noon in the western prefecture of Nara as he was delivering a campaign speech on behalf of a candidate.
Japan's parliamentary elections are this Sunday.
Gun violence is extremely rare in Japan, where firearms are strictly regulated. The killing in broad daylight during a campaign stump stunned a nation that prides itself on safety.
Toyoda, in his role as chairman of the Japan Automobile Manufacturers Association, issued a statement expressing shock and sadness at the killing. Toyoda eulogized Abe for his efforts in diplomacy and national security, while commending his moves to shore up Japan's economy.
Toyoda, who also is president of Toyota Motor Corp., the nation's biggest automaker and one of the anchors of the world's third-largest economy, blasted the killing as unforgivable.
Abe implemented a program of economic reforms he dubbed Abenomics to revive Japan after the collapse of Lehman Brothers triggered the 2009 financial crisis and after the country was throttled by the triple whammy of the earthquake-tsunami-Fukushima nuclear disaster in 2011.
"His strong leadership under the banner of 'Abenomics' enabled him to continue to build on the strong leadership he had shown since the Lehman Shock and the Great East Japan Earthquake," Toyoda said in a statement after Abe was pronounced dead shortly after 5 p.m.
"We would like to express our deepest gratitude for his great achievements during his lifetime."
Abe served two terms as prime minister, from 2006 to 2007 and again from 2012 to 2020.
He locked horns with former U.S. President Donald Trump about trade, often with autos a focal point. In 2019, Japan and the U.S. signed a limited trade deal but kicked auto talks into the future.