Toyota CEO Akio Toyoda talks EV skepticism, ‘happy dance’ and his legacy
Toyota CEO Akio Toyoda speaks at a small media roundtable on September 29, 2022 in Las Vegas.
LAS VEGAS. Toyota Motor CEO Akio Toyoda just stated last week what he would like his legacy to be: “I love cars.”
As a 66-year-old race car driver, car enthusiast and heir to the company, he will be remembered for his approach to all-electric cars versus gasoline-powered cars like the Supra or hybrids like the once groundbreaking Prius. in the coming years.
Toyota, the world’s largest automaker, plans to invest $70 billion in electrified vehicles over the next nine years. Half of this amount will come from all-electric batteries. While this is a significant investment in electric vehicles, it is smaller than some competitors’ plans and not as much as some would like given Toyota’s global footprint.
Despite criticism from some investors and environmental groups, Toyoda doubled down on its strategy last week to continue investing in a range of electrified vehicles, in contrast to competitors such as Volkswagen and General Motors, which have said they are going all-in. electric vehicles.
The plans could possibly reinforce Toyoda’s “I love cars” legacy or tarnish it, depending on how quickly drivers switch to electric vehicles.
“For me, playing to win also means doing things differently. Doing things that others might question but that we believe will keep us in the winning circle the longest,” he said Wednesday during the annual Toyota dealer meeting in Las Vegas, which the path believes was titled “Game to Win”.
Akio Toyoda with the new Toyota Supra
Paul Eisenstein | CNBC
Toyoda, who described Toyota as a major department store, said that the company’s goal “remains the same – to please the widest possible range of customers with the widest possible range of powertrains.” By 2025, these powertrains will include hybrids and plug-in hybrids such as the Prius, hydrogen fuel cell vehicles such as the Mirai, and 15 all-electric battery models.
In addition to plans for electric vehicles, Toyoda discussed several other aspects of the company’s business last week during a meeting with dealers and a small roundtable with US media.
Regulations and materials for electric vehicles
Toyoda reiterated that he does not believe all-electric cars will be adopted as quickly as regulators and competitors think, for a variety of reasons. He cited lack of infrastructure, pricing, and how customer choice varies from region to region as examples of potential barriers.
He believes it will be “difficult” to comply with recent regulations calling for a ban on conventional combustion-engine vehicles by 2035, as in California and the US. In New York, they announced that they would adopt.
“Like the free autonomous cars we should all be driving now, it will take longer for electric vehicles to become a mainstream phenomenon than the media would like us to believe,” Toyoda said in a recording of the dealers’ speech shown to reporters. . “In the meantime, you have a lot of options for clients.”
Toyoda also believes that there will be a “massive shortage” of lithium and nickel for batteries in the next 5 to 10 years, causing production and supply chain problems.
Toyota’s goal is carbon neutrality by 2050, and not just through all-electric cars. Some question the environmental impact of electric vehicles, given the extraction of raw materials and the production of cars in general.
Since the launch of the Prius in 1997, Toyota claims to have sold more than 20 million electrified vehicles worldwide. The company says these sales have avoided 160 million tons of CO2 emissions, equivalent to the impact of 5.5 million all-electric battery vehicles.
“Toyota can produce eight 40-mile plug-in hybrids for every 320-mile battery-electric vehicle and save up to eight times the amount of carbon it emits into the atmosphere,” read comments provided to media prepared for Toyoda.
Toyota is hesitant to launch all-electric cars has come under fire from environmental groups such as the Sierra Club and Greenpeace, which have ranked the Japanese automaker last in the auto industry’s decarbonization rankings over the past two years.
In touch with dealers
Toyota has no plans to overhaul its car. franchised dealer network as it invests in electrified vehicles, some competitors have announced.
“I know that you are worried about the future. I know you’re worried about how this business will change. While I can’t predict the future, I can promise you this: you, me, us, this business, this franchise model is here to stay. It stays the way it is,” he told dealers to thunderous applause.
The franchised dealer model has come under pressure since Tesla and new electric vehicle startups began selling directly to consumers rather than through traditional dealers.
GM has offered a buyout to Buick and Cadillac dealers who don’t want to invest in EVs, while Ford announced last month that dealers who want to sell EVs must be certified through one of two programs – with a $500,000 investment. or $1.2 million.
As part of a lighthearted and comedic comment to dealers, Toyoda said he was dancing when the automaker last year surpassed GM in U.S. sales for the first time
Even though Toyota executives said the achievement wasn’t sustainable – GM was in the lead in the first half of this year – Toyoda still felt it was a cause for rejoicing.
“At Toyota, we like to keep quiet and not talk about our success,” Toyoda said before reenacting the dance on stage. “But when I heard that you were number one in the US last year, I even danced a little in my office.”