Toyota is preparing for an all out war, an all out EV war as it finally concedes that it can no longer merely dip its toes in EV waters as a cover to promote a manufactured vision of being a sustainable and environmentally aware corporation. New Toyota CEO, Koji Sato, has revealed a three-step plan to forge a new line of electric vehicles. Step 1 is already underway, but it has not started well. The bZ brand of electric cars is being built on an aging ICE-based modular platform not best suited to battery electric vehicles. The bZ4X crossover SUV is built on Toyota’s 2015 e-TNGA modular platform and was recalled recently over concerns that wheels could fall off. Toyota admitted it did not consider the extra load the battery pack placed on the outdated platform.
Step two will see Toyota invest in software and services. Legacy car manufacturers such as Toyota are engineering companies first. The switch to electric cars requires equal investment in software as amply demonstrated by Tesla. Step three will see Toyota investing in new electrical systems and powertrain development. This isn’t so much a plan, but the “bleeding obvious”. However, it is always better to have a plan than no plan at all.
Toyota will introduce a new purpose-built electric platform by 2026, this will kickstart the second step of Koji Sato’s plan. The aim is to sell up to 1.5 million EVs globally by 2026. By 2030, Toyota is aiming for 3.5 million global EV sales. The overall aim is to improve volume production while making manufacturing more efficient and less complex. By taking this approach Toyota will aim lower prices, but for now, expect Toyota EVs to carry a price premium for a number of years as rival EV manufacturers begin to lower their prices.
Is Toyota’s plan too little too late? Yes and no. When it comes to changing trends, Toyota was caught sleeping at the wheel. This happens all too often with giant corporations too big to move out of their isolated ivory towers. At least Toyota has realized what it needs to do. But giants move slowly and Toyota is already losing the race towards EV supremacy not just to Tesla, but to China.
China’s electric car industry, not beholden to history, is advancing at a rapid rate and is far ahead of Toyota. For Toyota, the EV wheels may have fallen off 10 years ago.