CHIBA, Japan (AP) — To accelerate the global move toward sustainable vehicles, Toyota suggests simply replacing the inner workings of vehicles already on the road with cleaner technology such as fuel cells and electric motors.
“I don’t want to leave any car lover behind,” Chief Executive Akio Toyoda said Friday as he appeared on stage at the Tokyo Auto Salon, an industry event similar to the world’s auto shows.
The message was clear: Toyota Motor Corp. wants the world to know that it hasn’t fallen behind in electric vehicles, as some detractors have suggested.
Japan’s top automaker, behind the luxury brands Lexus and the hybrid Prius, highlights its clout: It has all the technology, engineering, financial reserves and industry expertise needed to remain a powerful vehicle competitor. ecological.
Toyoda told reporters that it would take a long time for all cars to be zero emissions, as they only account for a fraction of the vehicles sold. Greening old cars, or “conversion,” was a better option, he said.
Toyoda, the grandson of the company’s founder and an avid racer, also hoped to debunk the stereotype that clean cars aren’t as much fun as regular cars.
At Toyota’s Gazoo Racing booth, the maker of the Lexus luxury models and Camry sedans showed a video of its world rally triumph, as well as battery electric and hydrogen versions of the Toyota AE86 series, including the Toyota Corolla Levin, to underscore what Toyoda called its “conversion” strategy.
The automotive industry is undergoing a transformation due to growing concerns about climate change. Car manufacturers are often blamed as the culprits.
Toyoda said green efforts in the auto industry were beginning to be appreciated in many nations, but he felt less appreciated in Japan.
Toyota has dominated the industry with its hybrid technology, exemplified by the Prius, which has an electric motor and a gasoline engine, shifting back and forth to provide the most efficient drive. That has often been seen as a reflection of his reluctance to go all-electric.
Battery electric vehicles make up around 20% of the car market, despite the hype about relatively newer ones like Tesla and even Dyson. Europe remains ahead of the US and Japan in the move towards electricity.
So is it unfair to categorize Japanese automakers as green laggards?
For one thing, shortages of certain components like lithium could push up the prices of electric vehicles and consumers could stick with hybrids, says Matthias Schmidt, chief auto analyst at Schmidt Automotive Research.
“If this were 2025, and you were asking the same question, I would say that Japanese OEMs have missed the boat. But given that it’s 2023 and companies like Toyota are beginning their BEV rollout, their timing is likely right on schedule,” he said.
Yuri Kageyama is on Twitter https://twitter.com/yurikageyama
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