When a vintage car shop in Nagano Prefecture found a buyer for a restored AE86 Corolla from a bygone era, nobody expected Koji Sato, then head of Toyota’s luxury brand Lexus, to walk in and banter with the shop owner before picking up the iconic sports hatchback.

Sato, 53, was handed a different set of keys on Saturday as chief executive officer of the world’s largest automaker. Instead of romanticizing Toyota’s past, he will need to keep a steady gaze on its future.

Toyota, along with the rest of the $2.86 trillion (¥379.71 trillion) global auto industry, faces a once-in-a-lifetime upheaval in a shift toward electrification and automation that has already produced a few early winners, most notably Tesla. As the transition to EVs accelerates at a faster-than-anticipated clip, the big question is which, if any, of the incumbents can navigate their way and survive.