Toyota CEO Says Move to EVs May Be Boring, Costly

Toyota is already criticized enough for being boring.

Now its CEO is saying that a market shift toward EVs will be boring and expensive.

This was said by CEO Akio Toyoda even as he leads a special project team that plans to build an EV by 2020, and as it works to catch up to Chevrolet, Tesla, and others in the mainstream EV market.

Those two automakers are releasing affordable EVs with 200-plus miles range – the Bolt and Model 3 – this year (the Bolt is already available in some states, with the full rollout expected by summer). Volkswagen is also expected to have multiple EVs available by 2020 and as many as 30 EV models by 2025, and let’s not forget Nissan’s next Leaf due this year as well.

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In an interview with Automotive News, Toyoda appeared indifferent to an all-electric version of the company’s 86 sports coupe that was presented to him by his company’s engineers. He further mused out loud, on the record, about how it might be hard to sell EVs as anything other than point A to point B cars – in other words, how can emotion be injected?

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“When it comes to electric vehicles, every car, be it the Yaris or whatever, once it is electrified, the acceleration is all the same,” Toyoda said to Automotive News. “The reason I am responsible for EVs as well is that I don’t want to make these cars a commodity. Even with the electrification of the vehicles, I want the prefix ‘I love’ to be affixed to those cars.”

“What I meant was, for an OEM manufacturer, you’re choking yourself. It is commoditizing your vehicle,” Toyoda said.

Toyota 86. Less exciting in EV form to CEO Toyoda.

Toyoda has already pushed for his company’s cars to have more interesting exterior looks and sportier driving dynamics, with some success in both areas. So it’s clear that Toyoda values products that excite.

He’s also aware of how Tesla fans have boosted that brand via their love for the vehicles the boutique automaker produces.

“I want to change the way they work on EVs,” Toyoda said. “Maybe we will call them electric vehicles, but introduce connectivity. Think about Tesla. Tesla is producing cars. And Toyota is producing cars. But what Tesla is producing is something close to an iPhone.”

He’s not just referring to how consumers react to the cars, but also the team he’s put together for the EV scheduled for 2020. Only four employees, including Toyoda, helm the project, while the rest come from suppliers. This is done to mimic the flexibility of a startup company.

Toyoda has his work cut out for him, due to Toyota’s past reputation as a maker of boring, reliable cars and the fact that many EVs are seen as rolling appliances. But since automobile purchases are often driven as much by emotion as any other reason, if not more, it makes sense that at least one automotive executive is thinking about how emotion and EVs will work together as the market changes.

Automotive News (sub. req’d), Green Car Reports


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