Following Toyota’s shock announcement recently that the company is expecting to post a ¥150 billion ($1.7 billion) loss for the year ending March 2009, comes an official announcement that Akio Toyoda, the 52 year-old grandson of Toyota's founder Kiichiro Toyoda, will step into the role of CEO in June. Toyoda will replace current chief Katsuaki Watanabe, who will step down to the more advisory role of vice chairman.

Toyoda will be the first member of the family in 14 years to become the company's chief. Tatsuro Toyoda was the last president from the founder's clan.

Toyota also announced today that its global sales fell 4% to 8.972 million units in 2008, marking the carmaker’s first sales decline in 10 years.

In order to cut costs as much as possible, Toyota may have to delay launching new models, lashing research and development costs and extricating itself from non-essential activities, such as motorsport. The company has also cut its global vehicle sales forecast 8.5% to 7.54 million for the year ending March 31. It also lowered its North America sales estimate by 10% to 2.17 million vehicles.

Despite the grim financial news, there is some hope, especially for performance fans. Toyoda was heavily involved with development of the Lexus IS-F, even donning a racing suit and getting behind the wheel during high-speed testing, and he’s previously expressed a desire to bring back Toyota sports cars like the Celica and Supra.