The third-gen president of Toyota has undergone an image makeover to give the Japanese car brand a much-needed injection of cool.
Toyota – famed for the dependability of its cars rather than the sex appeal of its brand – suffered a major blow to its main selling point when a series of manufacturing errors in 2009 led to the recall of millions of cars.
Now 57-year-old Akio Toyoda, previously a shadowy, suited figure at the head of the multi-national corporation, has been coaxed into the limelight by marketing advisers to act as a brand ambassador, according to a report by Reuters.
As well as attending a Lexus party kitted out in a bow tie and retro glasses, he has also taken a spin in the Lexus LFA muscle car at the 24-hour race at Germany's Nurburgring circuit.
Taking inspiration from the Japanese prime minister, Shinzo Abe, Toyoda even has a Facebook page titled "Toyota President's Office" allowing Toyota fans to keep up-to-date on his activities.
According to reports, Toyoda was always uncomfortable with the media, only happy when he was free to wax lyrical about the "Toyota way" – the production and management philosophy behind the brand. However, he is apparently starting to warm to his new role.
"He knows that Toyota needs a story and products to fire the emotions and to ground our identity in new realities today, which is a more competitive environment," Julie Hamp, a spokesperson for Toyota Motor North America's Group, told Reuters.