Toyota says consumer choice dictates pace of electrification

TOYOTA, Japan, June 15 (Reuters) – Toyota Motor Corp (7203.T) has pushed back against critics who say it has been slow to adopt battery electric vehicles, arguing it should offer a variety of car choices to meet different markets and customers .

At its annual general meeting on Wednesday, the world’s biggest automaker by sales doubled down on its stance that it would stick to technologies, including fuel cell vehicles and hybrids, that have made it in the past. a leader in cleaner cars for the past two decades.

Along with concerns about its electrification strategy, Toyota executives addressed a series of questions about the CEO’s succession plans in the face of the current chip shortage.

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Once a favorite of environmentalists for the Prius hybrid model it popularized more than two decades ago, Toyota has come under fire from some investors for not phasing out gas-powered cars and its lobbying on climate policy. Read more

“The goal is carbon neutral,” Toyota chief technology officer Masahiko Maeda said at the meeting, responding to questions submitted by Danish pension fund AkademikerPension, which also asked Toyota to abstain. to push to undermine the transition to battery electric vehicles. Read more

However, “customers have to choose,” Maeda said, in order to popularize electric cars that include plug-in hybrids. A variety of options should be available and the automaker should not restrict them, he said.

Toyota argues that hybrids still make sense in markets where the infrastructure isn’t ready to support a faster transition to battery electric vehicles, and explores the viability of green fuels for internal combustion engine cars , including hydrogen.

There’s a rift between Toyota, which approaches decarbonization in a “pragmatic” way, and environmental groups that call for immediate action, said Seiji Sugiura, senior analyst at the Tokai Tokyo Research Institute.

The positions are not opposed, he said, adding that Toyota is working to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from the vehicle production stage.

Last year, the company pledged to spend 8 trillion yen ($60 billion) by 2030 to electrify its cars, half of which for the development of fully electric vehicles. Still, he expects annual sales of these cars to reach just 3.5 million vehicles by the end of the decade, about a third of current sales.

Just last month, Toyota launched its first mass-produced all-electric vehicle in the country, but only for rental, and gasoline-electric hybrid models remain much more popular in Japan. Read more


Asked about succession planning, chief executive Akio Toyoda, who led the company for 13 years, said he was “thinking about timing and selecting a successor”.

There has been no indication from the company that Toyoda plans to retire.

Toyoda, 66, grandson of company founder Kiichiro Toyoda, steered the company through a dark phase when Toyota sales plummeted after millions of vehicles were recalled and the company reported billions dollars of losses.

“I would choose someone who understands the company’s philosophy as a successor,” he added.

Toyoda sought to reform Toyota’s corporate culture, spending more time with younger executives and cutting some senior positions.

In 2020, he appointed company veterans Maeda and Kenta Kon to leadership roles. Both were 51 at the time – a relatively young age for Toyota’s top executives.

Toyota – which sold 10.5 million vehicles in 2021, far outpacing closest rival Volkswagen AG (VOWG_p.DE) – has repeatedly cut production this year amid a global chip crisis.

It expects the chip shortage to continue, although there are signs of improvement, its buying group chief Kazunari Kumakura said on Wednesday.

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Reporting by Satoshi Sugiyama; Editing by Sayantani Ghosh and Richard Pullin

Our standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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