TOKYO — Toyota has nominated James Kuffner, currently the CEO of its automated driving and robotics arm, to join the board of directors from June, signaling a shift in President Akio Toyoda’s priorities away from old-school automotive to next-generation new mobility.
Kuffner will be the second non-Japanese director on the Toyota board pending his approval at the company’s annual shareholders’ meeting, expected sometime in June. He has described his mission to develop self-driving cars for Toyota as the “moonshot” of his generation.
The American computer expert will retain his title as CEO of the Toyota Research Institute — Advanced Development and take on a new title as Chief Digital Officer, the company said on Wednesday in a press release. Kuffner will also be appointed an operating officer at the parent company; he currently holds a title there of senior fellow for advance R&D and engineering.
Kuffner replaces Didier Leroy, 62, the French chief competitive officer who will be giving up that role. Leroy is the top non-Japanese executive at the country’s biggest automaker. He will stay on as chairman of Toyota’s European business and remain an advisor to the parent company.
The other non-Japanese on the Toyota board is Philip Craven, an outside independent director. He is from the UK and served as president of the International Paralympic Committee.