At a media event to mark the end of Toyota's financial year (reporting €20 billion in operating income), Toyota's new CEO and president, Koji Sato, explained how the company will switch to electric motoring. The TL:DR version is: expect more hybrids in the short term.
More hybrids before more EVs
Speaking at the event, Sato said: "In order to prevent cars from being commodified, we see our strength in hybrid technology as vital. Moving forward, in what we believe to be growth sectors in emerging markets, hybrid technology serves a crucial dual role of underpinning our profit foundation and enabling us to produce ever-better cars specific to regional needs, while providing a means to reduce CO2 emissions.
"On the other hand, our 'multi-pathway' strategy emphasises the importance of not concentrating on any single domain, but rather aligning with regional needs to deliver the most appropriate solutions for each area. We believe it's important to make cars that embody our identity, extending not only to hybrids but BEVs as well. We are in the midst of fervently exploring how to create BEVs that only a carmaker can provide. We aim to create a mobility solution within the BEV paradigm that goes beyond merely replacing the powertrain with electric. This goal is fundamental to our efforts as we establish a new organisational structure."
New EV platform?
What does that actually mean? It means that Toyota will continue to concentrate on making hybrids in the immediate term, as the company still sees them as crucial to reducing CO2 emissions and giving buyers whose budgets don't stretch to an EV a start on the electric motoring ladder. There is some evidence from the US market that those who buy hybrids and plug-in hybrids are more likely to switch to an all-electric car, so Toyota hopes this trend continues.
It also looks like Toyota will reassess its current electric car platform strategy. Toyota uses the e-TNGA platform for its EV models, such as the bZ4X, which is based on the same TNGA chassis that underpins hybrid models such as the Corolla and RAV4. Indeed, e-TNGA and TNGA models can be built on the same production line, much as BMW does with its CLAR architecture.
However, according to Reuters, in spite of sharing parts with TNGA models, the e-TNGA platform has so far not brought the sort of cost-savings that Toyota would want, so it looks as if the Japanese car giant will embark on developing an EV-only platform instead.
Public charging infrastructure
Up until now, Toyota has been relatively conservative about its EV development, viewing hybrids as a better way to bring down overall emissions, especially in countries that don't have a good public charging infrastructure (basically anywhere outside Norway...).
But reflecting high demand in the marketplace for electric cars, on the same day as the financial results were announced, Toyota revealed its plans to set up a new BEV factory to accelerate next-generation BEV development and business, embodying Toyota's distinct character as a car manufacturer. Takero Kato, Head of the Vehicle Development Center, was announced as the new President of 'BEV Factory'.
In the Q&A session, Vice President Nakajima introduced President Kato, noting his experience with BEV development in China. Furthermore, he shared the following comment: "We're determined to shape the future with our next-generation BEVs."