‘Father of the Prius’ Poised to Take Helm At Toyota

According to the The Nikkei [sub], Toyota “appears set to choose Vice Chairman Takeshi Uchiyamada as its next chairman.”

Uchiyamada used to be Toyota’s R&D Chief, and is celebrated as the “father of the Prius.” He was made Vice Chairman last year. If confirmed, he would replace the 75-year-old Fujio Cho. A Chairman at Toyota has more of an oversight role. The executive power rests at President and CEO Akio Toyoda.

With Uchiyamada, another manager with a long and strong technical background will be at the levers of the company. With Uchiyamada also comes an outspoken critic of too much exuberance about electrification of the automobile. Last year in Tokyo, Uchiyamada said:

“The current capabilities of electric vehicles do not meet society’s needs, whether it may be the distance the cars can run, or the costs, or how it takes a long time to charge.”

With Uchiyamada as the chairman, expect Toyota to increase its research into hybrids, in order to make them smaller, easier to package, and less expensive to sell. Hybrids still have three-percent market share in the U.S. and play a negligible role in Europe. In the U.S., their tipping point will be reached when the price premium narrows. In Europe, hybrids would have to displace diesels. After diesels reached a similar tipping point in Europe, they now have around 50-percent market share.