Toyota mobility tech unit CEO Kuffner to leave post

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James Kuffner, CEO of Toyota Research Institute - Advanced Development, Inc. (TRI-AD) speaks at the company's office in Tokyo

James Kuffner, CEO of Toyota Research Institute - Advanced Development, Inc. (TRI-AD) speaks at the company's office in Tokyo, Japan, December 17, 2019. Picture taken on December 17, 2019. REUTERS/Naomi Tajitsu/File Photo Acquire Licensing Rights

TOKYO, Sept 7 (Reuters) - James Kuffner, the chief executive of Toyota Motor's (7203.T) autonomous driving technology unit Woven by Toyota, will step down from his post effective Oct. 1, the subsidiary said in a statement on Thursday.

Kuffner will be appointed a senior fellow at a new unit that Toyota Motor will establish in October to drive software-related business and development, the world's biggest automaker by sales said in a separate statement.

The new organisation, which will be named the Software Development Center, will consolidate existing software-related functions that belong to other Toyota units, including those focused on safety and connected car technology.

Kuffner had joined the Toyota Research Institute in 2016 and later served as the automaker's chief digital officer and as a board member. He left the board in June.

He will be replaced by Hajime Kumabe as chief executive of Woven by Toyota, pending approval by the unit's board, the statement said.

Kumabe is currently serving as top executive of J-QuAD Dynamics, an automated driving-focused firm set up in April 2019 by Denso (6902.T), Aisin (7259.T) and two other suppliers to Toyota.

Toyota established Woven Planet in 2021 to invest in and develop mobility with artificial intelligence.

The unit is also developing an automotive software platform, Arene, and building a testing site named Woven City for mobility-related systems and services in Shizuoka prefecture, west of Tokyo.

Akihiro Sarada, an engineer who oversaw the development of the company's latest Crown range, will be named president of Toyota's new Software Development Center, the automaker said.

One of the unit's executive vice-presidents will be Denso's Chief Technology Officer Yoshifumi Kato, who will continue in his role at the supplier at the same time.

Reporting by Daniel Leussink; Editing by Miral Fahmy, Edmund Klamann and Sherry Jacob-Phillips

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Daniel Leussink is a correspondent in Japan. Most recently, he has been covering Japan’s automotive industry, chronicling how some of the world's biggest automakers navigate a transition to electric vehicles and unprecedented supply chain disruptions. Since joining Reuters in 2018, Leussink has also covered Japan’s economy, the Tokyo 2020 Olympics, COVID-19 and the Bank of Japan’s ultra-easy monetary policy experiment.

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