Toyota CEO doubles down on EV strategy amid criticism it’s not moving fast enough

Toyota bZ4X at the New York Auto Show on April 13, 2022.

Scott Mlyn | CNBC

LAS VEGAS. Toyota Motor is sticking to its EV strategy, including hybrids like the Prius, after criticism from some investors and environmental groups that the company is too slow to transition to EVs.

Toyota CEO Akio Toyoda, who has built a corporate strategy around the idea that electric vehicles are not the only solution for automakers to achieve carbon neutrality, said Thursday that the company will move forward with plans to offer a range of so-called electrified vehicles for the foreseeable future – from hybrids and plug-ins to all-electric and hydrogen electric vehicles.

“It’s all about the customers,” he said through an interpreter during a small media roundtable the day after addressing Toyota dealers at their annual conference in Las Vegas.

Toyoda addressed the need to convince naysayers about the company’s strategy, including government officials focused on regulations for all-electric battery vehicles, saying the automaker will “provide hard facts” about consumer acceptance and the full environmental impact of electric vehicle production versus with hybrid electrified vehicles. .

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.

Toyoda’s remarks echo comments he made to thousands of Toyota dealers and employees on Wednesday, saying the company will play “every card in the deck” and offer a wide range of vehicles for all customers.

“That’s our strategy and we’re sticking to it,” Toyoda, who described himself as a “car enthusiast or car nerd,” said in a recording of remarks shown to reporters.

Toyoda doubled down on the company’s expectations that the introduction of all-electric vehicles “will take longer to become mainstream” than many think. He said it would be “difficult” to comply with recent regulations calling for a ban on conventional combustion-engine vehicles by 2035, California and New York said they would pass.

Toyota executives, as they ramp up investment in all-electric vehicles, argue that such cars and trucks are one solution, not a solution, to meet tightening global emissions standards and achieve carbon neutrality. Toyota continues to invest in alternative solutions, as well as hybrid vehicles such as the Prius, which combine EV technology with traditional internal combustion engines.

The company said its strategy is justified as not all regions of the world will adopt electric vehicles at the same pace due to the high cost of vehicles as well as the lack of infrastructure.

Toyota’s strategy has come under fire from environmental groups such as the Sierra Club and Greenpeace, which have ranked the Japanese automaker last in the car industry’s decarbonization rankings over the past two years.

Toyota plans to invest about $70 billion in electrified vehicles, including $35 billion in all-electric battery technology over nine years. By 2025, the company plans to offer about 70 electrified models worldwide.

By 2030, Toyota plans to sell about 3.5 million all-electric vehicles annually, which is only about a third of its current annual sales.

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