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The man who made Toyota

12 months ago

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Writer:

Jim Holder | Journalist

Date:

3 July 2023

‘It’s annoying that someone at the top like you doesn’t know the basics of driving, but just gets into the car and comments on this and that!’

It’s hard to believe that anyone might talk to Akio Toyoda, grandson of Kiichiro Toyoda, founder of Toyota, like that. Harder still, when – 27 years later – my impressions are being formed by his arrival for our interview, held while the Le Mans 24 Hours has barely begun, accompanied by a dutiful staff of at least a dozen. Here in La Sarthe, comparison with a royal visit wouldn’t be out of place – except for the fact the room’s paintwork would probably have had a fresh lick of paint.

Toyoda, who this month moves from CEO to chairman after 13 years at the helm, has his own water bottle, unbranded, chilled just-so. His arrival from the pitlane, where he watched the race’s start, to our location in the stands, is counted down by the minute. Nothing has been left to chance – even the seating plan of this unfamiliar room has been carefully choreographed.

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