One Toyota executive, who asked not to be identified, said the automaker was headed for a period of "cloistered rule," referring to the period in Japan's history when a retired emperor continued to call the shots.
Under the 66-year-old Toyoda, who led the company for more than a decade, the automaker has appeared reluctant to embrace electric vehicles, arguing the hybrid technology it pioneered with its once market-leading Prius was a better fit for many drivers.
Sato started his career at Toyota in 1992, before rising through the ranks to become chief engineer of Lexus International, a luxury auto brand of Toyota, in 2016, according to his profile on the company's website.
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