• Akio Toyoda confirms that Toyota plans to continue developing combustion engines.
It’s well known, Toyota was an unfashionably late arrival to the EV party. The company is working hard to make up for lost time, but don’t expect it to go all-electric any faster than it has to.
The automaker that sold the most vehicles worldwide in 2023, with 11.2 million units, believes that consumers must have access, in the medium-term, to a plurality of solutions, including electric and combustion-engine ones.
In 2023, Toyota sold 104,018 all-electric vehicles, or 0.9 percent of all vehicles it sold.
Those numbers both explain and reflect the company’s belief that the end of the combustion engine is not just around the corner.
Former Toyota CEO and now president Akio Toyoda recently told company executives and managers that the company intends to launch “a major engine development project.” Recall that at the Tokyo Motor Show earlier this year, he said that the market share of electric vehicles would never exceed 30 percent globally, regardless of technological advances. In other words, Toyota believes that 70 percent of remaining sales will come from vehicles powered by gasoline engines, hybrid powertrains or hydrogen.
This time around, Akio Toyoda also addressed the issue of employment, saying that “If we suddenly shift to BEVs, I’m sure the 5.5 million people in Japan’s auto industry who have spent their lives working on engines will start to question, ‘What was it all for?’ Some of our engine-related suppliers can’t even get banks to lend them money.”
Toyota is certainly swimming against the tide here. Several brands have already announced their decisions to stop developing gasoline-powered vehicles. Even Lexus, Toyota’s luxury brand, has pledged to stop selling combustion-engine vehicles by 2035.
Nothing prevents a manufacturer from reversing a decision, however, as we saw with General Motors and its walk-back regarding plug-in hybrids in North America.
Toyota believes that electric vehicles cannot be the only solution for achieving carbon neutrality. It’s a controversial position, but the company stands by it.
It’s worth repeating that not all markets are at the same point in the electric shift, and that electrification will not happen uniformly and at the same time everywhere on the planet.