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Toyota president seen as top runner to be next Keidanren chairman

  • June 13, 2020
  • , Tokyo Shimbun , p. 6
  • JMH Translation

By Yukihiko Nakazawa


Hitachi executive chairman Hiroaki Nakanishi has started his third year as chairman of Japan Business Federation [Keidanren] following the June regular general meeting, entering the latter half of his four-year term. The race to be the next Keidanren chairman is already on the minds of those in political and business circles.


Qualifications to become the chairman of Keidanren include the following: 1) Has served as head of a company either as chairman or president, and has served as a vice chair of Keidanren; 2) Has a background in manufacturing; 3) Has financial clout on account of his company’s solid financial basis; and 4) Has rich international experience.


A strong favorite for the position is Akio Toyoda, president of Toyota. His father, Toyota chairman Shoichiro Toyoda, became Keidanren’s 8th chairman at age 69. As co-chair of Keidanren’s committee on the Tokyo 2020 Olympic and Paralympic games, Akio Toyoda will represent the business community in its support of the postponed Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics. Toyoda has experience in international business, having served as vice president of a joint venture with U.S. General Motors and responsible for operations in China.


A key point in predicting the race for Nakanishi’s successor is the selection of the Keidanren vice chairs at the end of May 2021. The vice chairs serve two four-year terms. Out of the 18 vice chairs, four will step down in 2021: Taisei Corporation chairman Takashi Yamauchi, Nippon Steel chairman Kosei Shindo, Mitsubishi Electric executive corporate adviser Kenichiro Yamanishi, and Toyota vice chairman Shigeru Hayakawa. The focus is on who will succeed Hayakawa from Toyota. If Akio Toyoda succeeds Hayakawa, he will be the front runner among “post Nakanishi” candidates.


A top financier commented that “it is essential that the Keidanren leader come from Toyota.”  The financier explained that “if Akio Toyota becomes vice chair in 2021, he may be a strong candidate to succeed Nakanishi even though he will have served only one year in the post.”


On the other hand, Toyota’s performance has suffered due to the new coronavirus outbreak. It is possible that Toyoda may wish to concentrate on his company’s business. In that case, there will be no “favorite” and the selection process will be “thrown into confusion,” according to a financial insider.


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