Toyota Motor Corp. is overhauling the management of its automotive-technology division as the unit shifts from being a research arm to become more involved in the production of next-generation vehicles.
(Bloomberg) — Toyota Motor Corp. is overhauling the management of its automotive-technology division as the unit shifts from being a research arm to become more involved in the production of next-generation vehicles.
James Kuffner, 52, will leave his post as chief executive officer of Woven by Toyota, the carmaker said in a statement Thursday. He will be replaced by Hajime Kumabe, who has been leading J-QuAD Dynamics Inc., which focuses on autonomous driving and was created by Toyota’s top suppliers in 2019.
Toyota has vowed to expand electric-vehicle production as the global industry rushes to become carbon neutral. The world’s biggest carmaker is moving toward bringing technology developed by Woven into its product lineup, especially software that connects vehicles and enables autonomous driving.
Kuffner will remain in the Toyota organization as a senior fellow at the newly established Software Development Center, which researches and develops new software for Toyota’s vehicles. Kuffner joined the Toyota Research Institute in 2016 as chief technology officer after being recruited by Akio Toyoda.
The American was later put in charge of the carmaker’s digital efforts and appointed CEO of Woven Planet Holdings, which was renamed earlier this year. Kuffner joined Toyota’s board in 2020 and left as director in June.
His exit from Woven by Toyota comes about five months after Koji Sato became CEO of Toyota. Sato announced a new management team soon after, appointing Hiroki Nakajima as CTO.
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Woven by Toyota is building a sprawling future city near the base of Mount Fuji to test its self-driving cars. It is scheduled to be completed next year.
Kuffner earned a Ph.D. from Stanford University and taught at Carnegie Mellon University, two institutions renowned as leaders in autonomous-vehicle research.
–With assistance from Tsuyoshi Inajima.
(Updates with details of shift in Toyota strategy, Kuffner’s new role.)
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