Toyota Gets a New Toyoda… with a Babson MBA

In this handout image, obtai...
Image by Getty Images via Daylife

Toyota management has tapped executive vice president Akio Toyoda — grandson of the company’s founder, Kiichiro Toyoda — to take the helm and steer the company back to health.

Toyoda, nicknamed Toyota’s “prince” by Japanese media, has 24 years of experience at the company and became one of its youngest board members in 2000. When Katsuaki Watanabe became president in 2005, there was already talk circulating that Toyoda would be next in line. A law graduate of Tokyo’s esteemed Keio University who holds an MBA from Babson College in Wellesley, Mass., Toyoda has extensive experience in the North American, Japanese and Chinese car markets. He also has firsthand experience with General Motors, having served as vice president at New United Motor Manufacturing, a California-based production joint venture between Toyota and GM.


Long known as a country where your familial heritage often outweighed managerial capability, Japan has been morphing into an industrial nation where the bottom line has dictated that management better have “the goods.”

And hiring professional executives instead of heirs, allows for a “quick exit” when heads have to roll.   Hired guns generally have less baggage to deal with.  Employees respond more readily to managers with the right educational and corporate pedigree nowadays rather than the family pedigree of yore.

So in many ways, the timing of a grandson of the founder of Toyota taking the helm during a severely depressed economy may seem like a step back – but not when you take a closer look.

Toyota Motor Corporation

Toyoda’s initial moves call for a sayonara for most of the management group; but his challenges are many.

Toyota’s facing a $1.68 billion projected loss for the fiscal year ending in March.

And the yen’s strength against the dollar and the euro translates into an increasingly expensive car in the auto manufacturer’s key foreign markets.  A recent report in Forbes described overseas earnings as being “hammered” and “severely diminished Western demand” resulting in Toyota’s “first ever” operating loss.

How do you make people buy cars in today’s economy?

How do you rescue spending and capital outlays?

How do you do a complete overhaul of the auto industry?

And what do you do with the situation in Detroit?

Akio Toyado is a licensed race car driver

Well, Toyota’s prince was once  a student at Babson College , as was another auto scion at another time – Edsel Ford.

Graduating in 1983, Aiko Toyoda will be the first American educated president of Toyota and he will bring the creativity, innovation, and entrepreneurial style commonly  associated with  Babson leadership.

So what’s next for Toyoda/Toyota?

Brash thinking, assertive management, and restructuring are about to have a date with destiny…


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