Toyota Motor on Tuesday named Akio Toyoda as its new president, turning to the grandson of its founder to rescue the company from its biggest ever crisis.
Toyoda, currently an executive vice president, will take the reins of Japan's biggest automaker in June, replacing Katsuaki Watanabe, who will become vice chairman. Fujio Cho will keep the post of chairman.
Toyoda, 52, has long been groomed for the top job. He will be the first member of the founding family in 14 years to become president, taking over at a crucial time for the company.
Toyota is famed worldwide for its efficient production methods but expects its first-ever operating loss this financial year due to the economic crisis.
Toyota hopes that the founding family scion can unite the company during the current crisis, which is forcing it to slash jobs and production, said Mamoru Kato, an auto analyst at Tokai Tokyo Research Centre.
"The appointment will also promote the rejuvenation of the company, enabling management to rebuild its growth strategy. He is likely to correct the company's expansion policy and draw up a new path to follow," Kato said.
Toyota has expanded its global production facilities in recent years to meet brisk demand, particularly for its fuel-efficient cars, leaving it vulnerable to the current slump in worldwide sales.
Toyota said today its global sales fell four per cent in 2008 to 8.97 million vehicles, the first drop in a decade, as demand slumped in recession-hit markets such as Japan, Europe and the United States.