Much has been written about the minor role Toyota played in the pure electric vehicle boom. The world’s largest automaker is lagging behind many of its rivals in the battery electric vehicle (BEV) race when it comes to products and sales.
Tesla, Volkswagen, and Chinese car brands are the new protagonists. But doesn’t Toyota’s 20-plus years of working with electric drivetrains and batteries count for anything?
Running Up The Electric Bill
With 22,300 electric vehicles delivered globally, Toyota occupied 29th position in the worldwide ranking of BEV sales by automakers in 2022. Numerous smaller manufacturers such as Renault, BMW, Ford, and many Chinese newcomers have registered more electric cars than the Japanese giant. Pure electrics account for just 0.2 percent of Toyota’s total sales of 10.48 million in 2022.
Toyota’s electric portfolio is limited to three SUVs (C-HR, bZ4X, and Lexus UX) and a family of commercial vans (Proace). For comparison, BYD, China’s largest EV maker, lists 13 different models, not including vans. BMW Group has eight EVs available. At Stellantis, there are nine battery-electric passenger cars and 15 vans.
While most of Toyota’s Western competitors focused their efforts and resources on accelerating the transition, the Japanese company was busy improving its hybrid technology.
Over 25 Years Of Know-How
When it went on sale in December 1997, the Toyota Prius became the world’s first mass-produced hybrid car. It was the result of the Earth Charter document announced by Toyota in 1992, which contained the goal of producing low-emission vehicles.
In the late 1990s, emissions from automobiles weren’t a hot topic in the industry. As of September 2022, the brand had sold 5.05 million units of the Prius across four generations.
The truth is that Toyota has opened the door to the development and adoption of pure electric cars, while actually reducing the average emissions of its fleet over the years. Meanwhile, it has been involved in electric powertrains and batteries for longer than the brands that now lead the global BEV rankings.
What To Expect?
If there is one trait that best describes Toyota it’s the ability to understand global markets. Unlike any other car manufacturer, it is present in almost every country thanks to a wide range of products that adapt to the needs of different consumers.
Toyota is the first choice for new car buyers in Africa, the Middle East, Japan, Southeast Asia, and Oceania. It is the most appealing non-American brand in the United States, the second most popular manufacturer in China, the third most popular in Latin America, and the fifth most popular in Europe. Cars from the Japanese manufacturer are popular because they are reliable. Motorists trust them.
In my opinion, Toyota is not an automaker to be underestimated. The “electric” plans announced in June, which call for the development of batteries capable of traveling up to 600 miles from 2026 and 900 miles on a single charge after 2028, are only the beginning of the recovery.
The aim is to join the all-electric vehicle boom when demand is well established and after taking inspiration from today’s big manufacturers. Once it has everything in place, Toyota could be conveniently ready to pounce thanks to its size, know-how, and international presence – three elements that Tesla is still building.
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