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Akio Toyoda, the man who led Toyota as its CEO for 13 years, and now holds the chairmanship spot, believes that battery electric vehicles (BEVs) are not the final answer. No matter what the auto industry undertakes to promote growth, Toyoda says the electric car segment will only ever account for a maximum of 30% of the market. The fact of the matter is that several markets have already cleared that percentage, some significantly.

Just last month, he gave a presentation to media in Tokyo on the Japanese automaker’s manufacturing plan and answered questions while offering his thoughts on the worldwide EV market. As per his statements, Toyota intends to adopt a multi-pronged strategy to reduce emissions, utilizing battery-electric vehicles (BEV) in addition to automobiles with internal combustion engine, hybrid, or hydrogen drivetrains. According to Toyoda, these other models would eventually make up 70% of the market. He did, however, forecast that sales of fully electric vehicles would remain at 30% “no matter how much progress BEVs make.”

Considering his tenure with the company, the chairman’s remarks are both predictable and unexpected at the same time. While serving as CEO, Toyoda refused to give EV development top priority, claiming that battery-powered vehicles were too complicated and unpopular with consumers. Instead, under his leadership the company made significant investments in hybrid and hydrogen drivetrains. Even if some other industry captains agreed with this viewpoint, it lost favor when rivals like Tesla kept achieving record-breaking high EV sales figures.

As an increasing number of EV competitors entered the market and Toyota hesitated to release its own fully electric model, pressure mounted for a new direction until Toyoda was eventually replaced by Koji Sato in early 2023. Since taking over as CEO, Sato has greatly advanced the automaker’s electrification strategy while refusing to reduce the priority on hydrogen and hybrid vehicles. It comes as no surprise that Toyoda continues to express negative opinions about the future of EVs.

Even more surprising is how assertively Toyoda made his remarks. A few nations, mostly in Scandinavia, have already seen EV market shares rise above 30%. These include Norway (80%), Iceland (41%), and Sweden (32%). In China, where EV sales make up 24% of total sales, the chairman’s prediction is expected to be surpassed by the end of 2024.

It is hard to assess whether Toyoda’s views are shared among his fellow Toyota executives or if his comments merely reflect his personal thoughts towards electrification. It is more likely the latter, though, given that the company says it is prepared to comply with legislation prohibiting sales of gasoline-powered vehicles by 2035, and wants to deliver 1.5 million EVs by 2026, or 14% of its estimated sales total.

Meanwhile, even with these headstrong views, Toyoda does not appear to be opposing the acceleration of zero-emission cars. He and Sato have both commented on Toyota’s focus on developing e-fuels which are produced with the help of electricity from energy sources such as water and CO2. Toyoda also stated during his media conference that “Japan is the only developed country to reduce CO2 emissions by 23%,” a success rate that is largely attributable to the nation’s growing reliance on hybrid vehicles.


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