Tokyo: Toyota Motor Corp named Akio Toyoda, grandson of the company’s founder, to head the company and lead it through the global crisis that has slashed demand for cars worldwide.
Toyoda, 52 and currently executive vice president, will replace 66-year-old Katsuaki Watanabe as president in June as part of a reshuffle of top management at the world’s largest automaker, Toyota said in a statement.
Watanabe will become vice chairman.
The reshuffle comes as Toyota and other automakers grapple with slumping sales in north America, Europe and Japan amid a spreading recession in rich countries, with sales also slowing in emerging markets such as China and Russia.
Toyota is heading for its first-ever consolidated operating loss in the year to 31 March, hit also by a stronger yen.
Shares of Toyota rose 2.3% to close at 3,100 yen in Tokyo, boosted by Toyota’s announcement during trade that it would be unveiling a new management structure -- which has been widely tipped to put Toyoda into the president’s chair. The benchmark Nikkei average fell 2.3%.
Underscoring the tough market conditions, Toyota said on Tuesday that sales across the group fell 4% to 8.972 million vehicles in 2008, in line with previous company forecasts.
For the parent only, which excludes minivehicle maker Daihatsu Motor Co and truck unit Hino Motors Ltd, sales fell 5% to 7.996 million vehicles, Toyota said in a statement. Sales at the two units rose from 2007.
The tally is almost certain to keep Toyota ahead of General Motors Corp as the world’s biggest automaker after the US giant suffered a 23% drop in the United States in 2008, compared with Toyota’s 16% fall. The United States is the single-biggest market for both automakers.
GM is scheduled to announce its 2008 sales on Wednesday.
Chairman Fujio Cho, Watanabe and other executives will hold a news conference, first in Nagoya, near its headquarters in central Japan, and a second one in Tokyo at 6:30 pm (0930 GMT).