TOKYO (Reuters Life!) - Akio Toyoda, president of Toyota Motor, wants speedy reforms at the world’s biggest carmaker but many want him out of the fast lane.
Toyoda, 53, is an ardent racing fan who last month took part in the 24-hour endurance race on Germany’s notoriously dangerous Nurburgring track for the third consecutive year.
Asked if he would continue to race, putting his safety at risk, the head of Japan’s biggest company wouldn’t give a conclusive answer, but revealed his passion for speed.
“The folks here are pleading with me to stop,” Toyoda said, motioning toward his deputies who were at a news conference on Thursday where he sketched out plans for Toyota to become a leaner and more focused carmaker.
“But there’s a reason why I participate in these races. First, it’s because it’s Nurburgring. Second, it’s 24 hours. And third, it has a lot to do with the development of cars.”
“Put another way, you can say that I’m staking my life to come up with a better product,” he said.
Toyoda, who has said he wants to be a president “closest to the front lines,” went on to describe the smooth tracks he’s driven on in Japan and the demanding surface of Nurburgring.
Toyoda took over the helm of the company his grandfather established 71 years ago earlier this week.
As an amateur racer in a competition comprised mostly of professionals, Toyoda said he was experiencing driving from a standpoint “closest to a regular customer.”
Toyoda, who races under the pseudonym “Morizo” on the Gazoo Racing team, had related similar thoughts in a blog he writes under the same name on www.Gazoo.com, the Toyota-operated marketing website he helped set up.
In a 2007 entry, Morizo — whose identity is only ostensibly anonymous — writes about running into Aston Martin CEO Ulrich Bez, who was also at Nurburgring to race despite strong objections from his staff.
“It’s because there’s someone like this at the top that the company can come up with an emotional sports car like the Vantage. That was the feeling I got as an employee at a carmaker,” Morizo wrote on the Japanese-language blog.
Editing by Miral Fahmy