Toyota takes on new, yet familiar EV strategy

(Credit: Toyota)

The newly appointed CEO of Toyota, Koji Sato, has explained how he plans to change the company’s EV strategy in the coming years. It’s new, yet familiar, as the company will utilize its Lexus brand to push its electrification techniques, but it won’t be an accelerated process.

Toyota has faced considerable criticism for its electrification plan, with most critics believing it to be too slow to be effective. The new Toyota CEO, Koji Sato, is finally looking to address this as he enters the new position in April. According to comments from the upcoming executive to Reuters, Toyota will focus on the electrification of its Lexus brand before moving to broader market consumer offerings.

By electrifying its top-of-the-line brand first, Sato has chosen an EV strategy that, perhaps new to Toyota, is nothing new for the industry. Due to the incredible expense of electrification, legacy automakers have continually chosen to electrify more expensive options first to battle the incredibly high production costs of the first EVs they produce.

Tesla’s first offering was an electrified Lotus sports car that was hardly affordable. Ford’s first EV, the Mustang Mach-E, is considerably more expensive than its equivalent gas models. Even Nissan, who pioneered electrification with the Nissan Leaf, has introduced a higher price SUV to follow suit, the Nissan Ariya.

Sadly, Sato noted that his new electrification plan would not be an all-in rapid electrification. Instead, the company will still leave the door open for other zero-emissions options, such as hydrogen fuel cell technology.

Sato concluded his message to Reuters by noting two final points. First, Toyota would still aim for 3.5 million EVs on the road by 2030. Second, Toyota must focus on better communication regarding its electrification, showing consumers and investors the future of the brand is bright.

It should be noted that the company’s electrification plan remains unchanged until Sato takes his position as CEO at the Japanese auto giant. Further, with likely entrenched support for hybridization and hydrogen technology, Sato may face opposition from executives who don’t believe in a more EV-focused growth plan, even for just the luxury Lexus brand.

Toyota’s original plan to offer roughly 30 all-electric models first ran into problems late last year as Toyota engineers worried that the company would become uncompetitive in the market if it did not begin to offer EVs more quickly, leading to executives pausing the program and re-evaluating the EV strategy. However, it remains unclear what changes were decided upon following the pause.

Lexus’s first EV offering is a variation of the Toyota BZ4X/Subaru Solterra, which has faced numerous recall issues, hence its late introduction. However, in the future, the brand plans to offer more exciting vehicles, including an all-electric coupe based on the well-known Toyota Supra and Lexus LFA models.

For EV enthusiasts, the change in Toyota’s leadership is likely a good sign that the company may head in a new direction regarding its EV transition. However, that process is proving to be iterative, not revolutionary. Hopefully, as the EV market proves to become ever more lucrative, Toyota can choose to electrify more quickly in turn.

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Toyota takes on new, yet familiar EV strategy
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