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Toyota recalls test family scion's mettle

Akio Toyoda, the Toyota family scion named a year ago to steer the Japanese automaker through the global economic downturn, now faces perhaps his biggest challenge yet handling a widening safety recall.
The Toyota president has kept a low profile this week as the company founded by his grandfather more than 70 years ago battles to contain the fallout from accelerator pedal problems affecting millions of vehicles.
But how Toyoda - an avid motor racing fan - handles the quality problems could help shape his legacy and the future of the company, long lauded for its vehicles' safety and reliability, analysts said.
"This is proving to be the biggest test yet of Toyoda's leadership," said SMBC Friend Research Center auto analyst Shigeru Matsumura.
Toyoda - at 53 years old relatively young for a top Japanese executive - was long groomed for the top job and became the first member of the founding family in 14 years to take the reins.
Toyoda, who has a law degree from Japan's Keio University and a master's degree in business administration from Babson College in the United States, is the grandson of Kiichiro Toyoda - who founded the automaker in 1937 - and the son of former president Shoichiro Toyoda.
He joined Toyota in 1984, became a board member in 2000 and was made an executive vice president in 2005, taking charge of Japanese sales and overseas operations.
When he was named in January 2009 to take the helm of the automaker, Toyoda said he was "sobered by the heavy responsibility."
The family scion has put the brakes on Toyota's rapid expansion, which propelled it past General Motors in 2008 to become the world number one, but also left it vulnerable to the global economic crisis.
"We must start again from the very bottom," Toyoda said in June. "In some areas, we need to take a step backwards."
Under his watch, the company has slashed thousands of jobs and exited Formula One racing in an effort to return to profitability - a painful choice for the Toyota boss, who holds an international motor racing licence and has competed in the 24-hour endurance race on Germany's Nurburgring.
While seen as charismatic, he has made fewer public appearances than his predecessors and rarely gives media interviews.

Updated : 2021-06-15 05:20 GMT+08:00