November 28, 2011 by staff
The charismatic leader swooped in to save a national icon from bankruptcy. And he soon was hailed the rock star CEO by a doting public and glorified as the hero in a comic book series.
Now Akio Toyoda — president of rival Toyota Motor Corp. and grandson of that company’s founder — is quickly emerging as a celebrity CEO in his own right.
Consider his reception last weekend at the annual Toyota Gazoo Racing Festival for car buffs at the Fuji Speedway Formula One circuit just southwest of Tokyo.
In a fireproof race suit with sparkling silver trim befitting an Elvis costume and his name emblazoned across the back, he revved up a crowd of 20,000 race fans.
First came his grand entrance: flooring the company’s new sporty coupe, a fire orange Toyota 86, down the main straightaway threading a lineup of Lexus LFA supercars.
Then his dismount: slowly unfastening the multiple straps on his crash helmet before yanking it off, jumping onto the door sill and pumping his fist in the air for the cheering crowd.
Next, a pair of leggy Gazoo Girls, the leather-clad race queens of Toyota’s Gazoo Racing team, quickly scampered to his side with a parasol to shield the chief from the sun.
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