Toyota CEO Akio Toyoda talks EV skepticism, ‘joyful dance,’ his legacy

Toyota CEO Akio Toyoda speaks throughout a small media roundtable on Sept. 29, 2022 in Las Vegas.

Toyota

LAS VEGAS — Toyota Motor CEO Akio Toyoda final week merely acknowledged what he would really like his legacy to be: “I love cars.”

Just how the 66-year-old racer, automotive fanatic and firm scion shall be remembered concerning his method to all-electric automobiles in comparison with gas-powered efficiency automobiles, just like the Supra, or hybrids, just like the once-groundbreaking Prius, will play out within the years to return.

Toyota, the world’s largest automaker, plans to take a position $70 billion in electrified automobiles over the subsequent 9 years. Half of that shall be for all-electric battery ones. While it is a substantial funding in EVs, it is smaller than some rivals’ plans, and never as a lot as some would really like given Toyota’s world footprint.

Despite criticism from some buyers and environmental teams, Toyoda this previous week doubled down on his technique to proceed investing in a spread of electrified automobiles versus rivals resembling Volkswagen and General Motors, which have mentioned they’re going all-in on all-electric automobiles.

The plans may arguably cement Toyoda’s “I love cars” legacy or tarnish it, relying on how shortly drivers undertake electrical automobiles.

“For me, playing to win also means doing things differently. Doing things that others may question, but that we believe will put us in the winner’s circle the longest,” he mentioned Wednesday throughout Toyota’s annual vendor assembly in Las Vegas, which, by the way in which, was known as “Playing to Win.”

Akio Toyoda with new Toyota Supra

Paul Eisenstein | CNBC

Toyoda, who described Toyota as a big division retailer, mentioned the corporate’s purpose “remains the same, pleasing the widest possible range of customers with the widest possible range of powertrains.” Those powertrains will embody hybrids and plug-in hybrids just like the Prius, hydrogen gasoline cell automobiles just like the Mirai and 15 all-electric battery fashions by 2025.

Aside from the EV plans, Toyoda mentioned a number of different elements of the corporate’s enterprise final week through the vendor assembly and a small roundtable with U.S. media.

EV rules and supplies

Toyoda reiterated that he doesn’t consider all-electric automobiles shall be adopted as shortly as coverage regulators and rivals suppose, resulting from a wide range of causes. He cited lack of infrastructure, pricing and the way clients’ decisions differ area to area as examples of doable roadblocks.

He believes it will likely be “difficult” to meet current rules that decision for banning conventional automobiles with inner combustion engines by 2035, like California and New York have mentioned they are going to undertake.

“Just like the free autonomous cars that we are all supposed to be driving by now, EVs are just going to take longer to become mainstream than media would like us to believe,” Toyoda mentioned in a recording of the remarks to sellers proven to reporters. “In the meantime, you have many options for customers.”

Toyoda additionally believes there shall be “tremendous shortages” of lithium and battery grade nickel within the subsequent 5 to 10 years, resulting in manufacturing and provide chain issues.

Carbon neutrality

Toyota’s purpose is carbon neutrality by 2050, and never simply by all-electric automobiles. Some have questioned the environmental affect of EVs when factoring in uncooked materials mining and total automobile manufacturing.

Since the Prius launched in 1997, Toyota says it has offered greater than 20 million electrified automobiles worldwide. The firm says these gross sales have averted 160 million tons of CO2 emissions, which is the equal to the affect of 5.5 million all-electric battery automobiles.

“Toyota can produce eight 40-mile plug-in hybrids for every one 320-mile battery electric vehicle and save up to eight times the carbon emitted into the atmosphere,” in line with ready remarks for Toyoda supplied to media.

Toyota’s hesitancy to launch all-electric automobiles has been criticized by environmental teams such because the Sierra Club and Greenpeace, which have the Japanese automaker on the backside of auto-industry decarbonization rankings the previous two years.

Standing pat with sellers

Toyota has no plans to overtake its franchised dealership community because it invests in electrified automobiles, like some rivals have introduced.

“I know you are anxious about the future. I know you are 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 franchised model is not going anywhere. It’s staying just as it is,” he informed sellers to resounding applause.

The franchised vendor mannequin has been beneath stress after Tesla and newer EV startups started promoting on to customers than slightly by conventional sellers.

GM has provided buyouts to Buick and Cadillac sellers that do not need to put money into EVs, whereas Ford final month introduced sellers that need to promote EVs should develop into licensed beneath one in all two packages — with investments of $500,000 or $1.2 million. 

‘Happy dance’

As a part of lighthearted and comedic feedback to sellers, Toyoda mentioned he danced when the automaker outsold GM final 12 months for the primary time ever within the U.S.

Despite Toyota executives saying the accomplishment wasn’t sustainable — GM led by the primary half of this 12 months — Toyoda nonetheless felt it was trigger for celebration.

“At Toyota, we like to keep our head down and not talk about our success,” Toyoda mentioned earlier than reenacting the dance on stage. “But when I heard you became No. 1 in the U.S. last year, I actually did a little happy dance in my office.”

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