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Automobiles

Toyota chief sees son's potential to become 'master driver'

Younger Toyoda looks to bring racing expertise to self-driving cars

A Toyota car seen during the Dakar Rally. A master driver is a carmaker's chief test driver who determines whether new models are ready for the market.   © Reuters

NAGOYA, Japan -- Toyota Motor President Akio Toyoda on Friday said his son was in the running to become the automaker's "master driver" -- the chief test driver who determines whether new models are ready for the market.

Toyoda spoke at the Tokyo Auto Salon car show in Chiba Prefecture. His son, Daisuke Toyoda, is a senior vice president and founding member at Toyota Research Institute-Advanced Development, a subsidiary that develops software for self-driving cars.

The elder Toyoda's mentor, Hiromu Naruse, served as the company's chief test driver for years. Naruse was a major influence in Toyoda's decision to get behind the wheel himself.

When the president, who is the grandson of the automaker's founder, was first promoted to the board in 2000, Naruse told him: "I don't want someone who can't even drive to tell me what to do."

Daisuke Toyoda (From TRI-AD website)

The comment spurred Toyoda to hone his driving skills under Naruse, who also passed on the importance of loving and knowing everything about cars. Toyoda has been the company's master driver since Naruse's death in 2010.

The president also outlined the activities of a racing team to which both he and his son belong, and brought its members to the stage.

Daisuke Toyoda offered thoughts on advancing self-driving vehicles.

"Companies working on autonomous cars tend to not have many experts on driving," the son said. "I want to incorporate my skill into self-driving technology."

Daisuke Toyoda previously worked at Toyota Motor, where he promoted a software-led approach to product development. He is a graduate of Keio University in Tokyo and has an MBA from Babson College, just like his father.

Known to be a foodie, he has been nicknamed the "chief lunch officer" at TRI-AD.

Toyota Motor President Akio Toyoda, far left, speaks with his son Daisuke Toyoda, second from right, and other members of his racing team at the Tokyo Auto Salon. (Photo by Tomoyoshi Oshikiri)

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