Mike Stevens | Jun 23, 2009

AKIO TOYODA, the man responsible for the Lexus LF-A supercar and the M3-rivalling IS-F sports sedan, begins his job as President of Toyota today, after 25 years with the company.

Grandson of Kiichiro Toyoda, the founder of Toyota, 52-year-old Akio Toyoda takes over from 66-year-old Katsuaki Watanabe, who has been Toyota chief since 2005.

Long tipped to take the top job, Toyoda was previously Executive Vice President, and his official appointment to President today will follow a formal vote by Toyota shareholders on the company's top management positions.

akio-toyoda_profileShoichiro Toyoda, Akio’s father, was Toyota President between 1982 and 1992 and has been instrumental in ensuring Akio receives the right business experience to take on the top job.

Akio takes control at possibly the most critical time for the company, which for the first time in over seventy years, has failed to make a profit. Sales have dropped from an expected 10 million units per year to just 8.97 million to the end of 2008.

In the first quarter of 2009, Toyota lost $9.8 billion, the company's biggest-ever quarterly loss. In Australia, the company's profits in the 12 months to March 31 2009 were $123.4 million - barely more than half of the previous year's $242.2 million dollar profit.

Akio will also be the youngest President in Toyota’s history, but brings with him an impressive resume including time spent working in China, Japan and the US. He also speaks fluent English - a skill not shared by most of his predecessors.

Maryann Keller, an industry analyst in the US, told the Detroit News:

"The issues that confront Akio are more substantial than any Toyota has faced in its history," Keller said.

"Akio is facing massive global excess capacity, the emergence of South Korean competitors and the potential emergence of Chinese competitors."

Toyoda has recently had an active role within Toyota, keeping the program for the Lexus LF-A alive, even without a confirmed production schedule.

He has raced in the Nurburging 24-Hours, as well as demonstrating the LF-A at Fuji Speedway as part of Toyota Motor Sports Festival, held late last year.

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