He’s warned the switch to battery-electric vehicles could seriously harm the auto industry. And even though his successor as Toyota CEO committed more resources to EVs, Akio Toyoda continues to see a future in which hybrids and other alternatives dominate the global market. More from Headlight.News.
After gaining significant momentum between during the last five years, the growth of EV sales has slowed sharply in recent months — coming in at 18% of the global new vehicle market and 8% in the U.S. — and former Toyota Motor Corp, CEO Akio Toyoda might as well say he told us so.
Before stepping down last year from the day-to-day management of the company his grandfather founded, Toyoda was one of the industry biggest EV skeptics. And that hasn’t changed, even though his successor, Koji Sato, has since outlined more aggressive plans that, among other things, calls for a wave of new, all-electric models to be added to the Toyota lineup in the next few years.
Toyoda, in his new role as Toyota chairman, believes that EVs will peak at just 30% of global vehicle sales. “Engines will surely remain,” he said in comments posted on the automaker’s website Tuesday.
A “multipathway approach”
For years, Toyota was the darling of the environmental movement, the automaker introducing the first mainstream hybrid-electric vehicle a quarter century ago. It now offers HEV versions of nearly all its products, from the compact Corolla to the full-size Tundra pickup. And several models, including the latest-generation Camry sedan and the new Toyota Crown Signia, are hybrid only.
There are now several plug-in hybrids, as well, such as the Prius Prime, and Toyota is one of only a handful of manufacturers offering a hydrogen fuel-cell vehicles, the Mirai.
But it has been slow to embrace EVs, introducing its first two models, the Toyota bZ4X and Lexus RZ, for the 2023 model year. That has flipped the tables, Toyota now taking regular hits from high-profile environmental groups such as the Union of Concerned Scientists.
More Toyota News
- Toyota teases future performance EVs at Japan Mobility Show
- Review: 2024 Toyota Prius wins over skeptics
- First look: hybrid-only Toyota Crown Signia
Customers must decide
While Toyoda believes the auto industry must address its role in climate change, he has strongly opposed one-size-fits-all regulations that solely call for replacing internal combustion engines with battery-electric drivetrains. The European Union wants to get there by 2035, as do Canada, California and several other U.S. states.
“Customers — not regulations or politics — should make that decision,” Toyoda said in the corporate post.
For one thing, stressed, there are still millions of motorists around the world who would find it difficult to be able to charge EVs, a situation he doesn’t expect to be readily addressed.
New CEO, old strategy?
Sato has shown a willingness to expand the automaker’s commitment to all-electric technology. Since his promotion last year, Sato has announced plans for a number of new EVs — including a performance model expected to deliver more than 600 miles range by using breakthrough solid-state batteries.
Yet, on the whole, the new CEO hasn’t strayed far from where Toyoda had positioned the company. Just this month, Toyota announced plans to develop new internal combustion engines — though they’ll likely be used primarily in hybrid packages, based on the moves the company has been making.
Sato expects EVs to account for just 1.5 million sales annually by 2026 — barely 15% of its total annual sales over the past decade. By 2030, meanwhile, he expects that to reach 3 million, or roughly the same 30% share that Toyoda sees EVs peaking at.
In the U.S., the Biden administration is calling for EVs to reach 50% of the market by decade’s end. And most European analysts see the figure running substantially higher. And while regulators there have yet to issue formal guidelines, many observers expect China to call for an all-EV approach sometime in the mid-2030s, as well.
Even if every new vehicle were to be battery-powered by 2035, it would take decades to get the last of the older ICE vehicles off the road. But BloombergNEF forecasts that EVs will account for 75% of global new vehicle sales by 2040. And, by then, it sees all-electric models making up 44% of the vehicles on the road.
Toyoda isn’t the only industry executive to question the likelihood of the world going all-electric. Honda CEO Toshihiro Mibe also sees the benefits of a multipathway approach, at least in the near to midterm. But he has expressed more openness to going all EV long term.