Toyota’s CEO cautions against electric vehicles hype, views them as just one option in his ‘department store’ of powertrains

Toyota Motor Corp. plans to keep gas cars as a key part of its lineup, rejecting rivals’ efforts to go all-electric amid concerns about how quickly consumers will adopt new technologies.

While the world’s largest carmaker will introduce more electric vehicles in the coming years, it will also offer a number of other options, including petrol-electric hybrids, traditional hydrogen and fossil fuel models, according to the adviser delegate Akio Toyoda, who met with reporters on Thursday.

Battery electric vehicles “will take longer than the media would like us to believe,” Toyoda, the grandson of the automaker’s founder, told dealers gathered in Las Vegas. It pledged to offer the “broadest possible” range of engines to power the cars cleanly.

“That’s our strategy and we’re sticking to it,” he said.

Toyota’s position reflects the many and sometimes conflicting considerations for automakers, which are seeking to increase sales, serve diverse customer bases and meet increasingly stringent environmental standards in many countries. The decision contrasts with that of competitors such as General Motors Co., which has pledged to go all-electric by 2035.

Environmentalists and shareholders have criticized Toyota for dragging its feet in adopting electric vehicles, with Greenpeace placing the brand at the bottom of its ranking of global carmakers’ decarbonisation efforts. Critics have accused Toyota of clinging to its 25-year history with the Prius gasoline-electric hybrid, which once won Toyota praise.

“The fact is, a hybrid today is not green technology,” Katherine Garcia, director of the Sierra Club’s Clean Transportation For All campaign, wrote in a blog post last month. “The Prius hybrid runs on a combustion engine that emits pollution found in any gas-powered car.”

Toyota Electric Vehicle Commitment

Last year, the company pledged to spend 4 trillion yen, or $28 billion, to launch 30 electric vehicles by 2030. Still, that’s less than the $50 billion Ford Motor Co. is spending to build electric vehicles until 2026.

Despite the apparent disparity, Toyoda said his company has already been investing in battery-powered hybrids for more than two decades. It claims this makes Toyota the “front runner” in reducing vehicle carbon emissions worldwide.

“Our investments may seem smaller than others, but when you look at what Toyota has been doing for the past 20 years, the total amount may not necessarily be small,” Toyoda said.

The CEO said that a lack of sufficient infrastructure will slow EV adoption rates, which is a factor in his decision not to go electric.

“Toyota is a big warehouse of all kinds of engines,” he said. “It’s not right for department stores to say, ‘This is the product you should buy.'”

Toyoda expressed skepticism that automakers can meet California’s mandate that will effectively ban gasoline-powered vehicles by 2035 and require a substantial portion of sales to be electric vehicles by 2030. New York said Thursday that would institute similar regulations.

“We need to look at the current price range and infrastructure availability and at what rate they will be upgraded,” he said. “In realistic terms, it seems pretty difficult to achieve.”

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