NAGOYA (Kyodo) Toyota Motor Corp. will promote Executive Vice President Katsuaki Watanabe to replace Fujio Cho as president, company sources said Tuesday.

Cho is expected to become vice chairman while Chairman Hiroshi Okuda will remain in the post, the sources said.

Japan’s biggest automaker is expected to announce the appointments as early as Wednesday and make a formal decision at a board meeting in June following an annual shareholders’ meeting, they said.

Okuda, 72, has said he would complete his second two-year term as Japan Business Federation (Nippon Keidanren) chairman through May 2006, raising speculation that the automaker will keep the Okuda-Cho management team intact during the period.

But Toyota has decided to appoint Watanabe, 62, as its new president to rejuvenate the management team, the sources said.

At the end of June, Cho, 68, will have been serving as Toyota’s president for six years.

Watanabe will be the third successive president appointed from outside the founding Toyoda family, following Okuda and Cho.

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