One of the world’s largest custom car events, Tokyo Auto Salon 2024, kicked off on January 12 at Makuhari Messe in Chiba.
Just like last year, Morizo took the stage at the TOYOTA GAZOO Racing (TGR) booth, although this time the scene was a little different.
The on-stage monitor simply read “New Year’s Greetings from Morizo.”
There was no TGR logo or the words “press conference,” as might have been expected after last year.
Being Akio’s first Tokyo Auto Salon since stepping down as president of Toyota, the event had a special feel.
Here, we share the full text of his message to fellow car lovers in Japan and abroad.
Energizing Japan with smiles from the Auto Salon
Morizo began by expressing his condolences to those affected by the Noto Peninsula Earthquake that struck on January 1 and the accident at Haneda Airport the following day.
Good morning. I am Morizo. I look forward to sharing this year, as well, with you.
First, I would like to offer my prayers for those who lost their lives in the massive Noto Peninsula Earthquake and in the airplane accident, as well as express my deepest sympathies to all others affected by those disasters.
On New Year’s Day, I watched the first sunrise of the year at Fuji Speedway and cheered during the New Year Ekiden [relay marathon], but the victory celebration was cut short as 2024 began with an enormous earthquake.
At the time of the Great East Japan Earthquake 13 years ago, someone in the affected area said to me: “I hope that regions, companies, and others that have the means will do their best to support Japan for the affected areas.”
Today, Japan has 5.5 million people working diligently on the auto industry’s front lines to keep cars on our roads. Together with those 5.5 million colleagues, I, Morizo, will strive to bring smiles back to the faces of the disaster-affected as soon as possible.
Now is the time to give up our conflicts, divisions, disputes, and abuse; rather, we should begin to help each other and say to each other, with a smile, “Thank you.” I believe that this is a time that requires us to show maturity.
Tokyo Auto Salon is a festival at which car lovers can surround themselves with cars and smiles.
The smiles born here will help energize Japan’s automotive industry.
I would like to link that energy to the vitality of Japan as a whole again this year.
Today, with that desire, I hope you will allow me to extend my greetings for the new year.
Now, please watch this video.
The roughly 90-second video showed countless smiles from the various places that Morizo visited over the past year. It finished with the words: “Car lovers! Let’s build the future together!”
Morizo resumed his New Year’s greetings with this call to action.
Giving children fun car memories
“Car lovers! Let’s build the future together!”
I will keep on moving with these words.
Because we’re car lovers, we can build the future… My desire to enjoy cars makes me want to try various technologies…
This is something I’m serious about.
So, during the year 2023, Morizo accomplished three things!
The first was creating future colleagues.
As shown in the video a moment ago, we provided an occasion for the children who will play the main roles in the future to feel the fun of cars.
If the sounds, smells, and clouds of dust experienced on school grounds become fun memories, we could call our effort a success.
Judging from the smiling faces of the children in the cars, I believe it was.
This year, as well, I will compete in races and rallies across Japan.
I would like to be able to stop by elementary schools again along the way.
Although I am not able to give baseball gloves to every elementary school in Japan [like Major League Baseball star Shohei Otani recently did], I hope to be able to deliver at least a few fun car memories.
The passion for cars overseas versus Japan
The second was creating colleagues across national borders.
As was also shown in the video, we had car festivals in Taiwan, the Philippines, and Thailand.
I personally went to the ones in the Philippines and Thailand and can say that the people there are truly passionate about cars!
I believe that there are expectations in every country for the automotive industry.
Those expectations are why such passion exists.
On the other hand, in Japan, I feel that instead of having high expectations, people are saying things that make me think maybe they want to let this industry decline.
The path up the carbon neutrality mountain depends on the country and region.
However, isn’t a desire for cars what we all need?
I found out that, overseas, we have many colleagues who have that passionate desire.
This year, as well, I want to search for such colleagues and meet them.
Frankly, being able to meet such colleagues energizes me.
I wonder how much I will even be in Japan this year.
Going off topic for a bit, did you notice that the title is different from the usual?
Today, this is not a press conference. We made it into an occasion for sharing greetings from Morizo.
Last year, I stepped down as president [of Toyota] and as chairman of the Japan Automobile Manufacturers Association.
At last, I think that I have been able to get back to being an ordinary guy who loves cars.
I had always dreamed of the day when I could be like this.
Tokyo Auto Salon is a festival where car lovers proudly show off their beloved cars.
It had been my dream to participate in this festival as just a regular car lover.
That is why I have chosen to convey my greetings not as a president or chairman but as Morizo.
I also proudly have on display six beloved vehicles.
A Yamaha Vino, Suzuki Jimny, and Lexus LBX, all the way to a Century… As well as my trusted partners, Corolla and iQ.
I imagine that these all have you wondering about them. I would like to talk about each one, but please let me save that for a talk session that will come later.
Now, getting back to what I was talking about.
The third thing I did last year was take action to protect colleagues for the future.
We have been working on hydrogen-engine initiatives since three years ago out of the belief that battery electric vehicles do not represent the only way to achieve carbon neutrality.
Last year, we tried liquid hydrogen and drove at Le Mans running it. Why put so much effort into this area?
It’s because we can’t build the future unless we do it with our colleagues.
Many of our 5.5 million colleagues make engine parts.
These people support Japan and have the skills to make the Japan of tomorrow strong.
We must never lose these people.
However, I’ve heard of people working with engines who cannot even borrow money from the bank these days.
That must not happen, and I want to do something about it.
Therefore, I made a request to Toyota.
Engines still have a role to play as a practical means of achieving carbon neutrality!
So, let’s refine engine technology! Let’s start such a project!
President (Koji) Sato and other members of management agreed with my proposal, and a project to promote engine development anew was set in motion within Toyota.
Engines in this day and age? It might sound like we are going backward, but that’s not at all the case.
We need to do this to move toward the future.
To all those who have made engines up until now, let’s continue to make engines!
Everyone’s help will continue to be needed! I will never let all the work you’ve all done so far go to waste!
I hope that this message will reach our colleagues.
However, Toyota is a large company, so it might take much more time.
I ask that you look forward to it.
Car lovers! Let’s build the future together!
Like me, there are people who love engines, who are hooked on the noise and the smell…
Some people like battery EVs. Some say that now is the time for hybrids. And then there are plug-in hybrid vehicles and hydrogen.
The energy source could be anything!
There is always one truth. The only enemy is carbon!
Knowing that, there is something that I want to convey to all who love cars!
The future is something for all of us to build together!
I want to build the future together with all car lovers!
Let’s all build the future together!
Thank you very much.
“Let’s build the future together!”
These closing words were the same as at last year’s Tokyo Auto Salon.
Yet this year, the speech began differently.
Whereas last time he had introduced himself as Akio Toyoda, this year began, as we’ve seen, with “Good morning. I am Morizo.” Not as a carmaker addressing his customers, but a fellow car lover.
Amid the vocal push for carbon neutrality, some auto industry colleagues are feeling the squeeze. In calling for Toyota to keep making engines, Morizo’s message seemed to give voice to their hopes.