Toyota Could Begin Mass Producing Electric Cars In China As Soon As 2019

Toyota may be ready to plunge into China’s “new energy vehicle” electric car market as early as 2019.

While the company wouldn’t confirm the plan as reported by Reuters, a Toyota spokesman on Friday confirmed that electric vehicles will be introduced to that market.

“We are going to introduce EVs in China with a few years. However, we don’t talk about any future product plans,” Toyota spokesman Ryo Sakai told major Japanese daily Asahi.

The newspaper reported that the first EV model will be based on Toyota’s C-HR sport utility vehicle and will be made for the China market only. Asahi didn’t cite sources on that statement.

The report expects annual output to start at more than several thousand units. Pressure has mounted with the Chinese national government’s intention to stick to a mandate requiring automakers to meet a high level of NEV sales starting next year.

The pace of production scheduled by Toyota will be calculated after taking into account these strict mandates and available subsidies for manufacturers and buyers of NEVs, the report said.

China cut funding for subsidies 20 percent this year, which is expected to be the first phase towards eliminating these incentives by 2020. The national government has been most interested in following California’s lead on the zero emission vehicle front, requiring sales percentages be met and that automakers can purchase and trade credits from competitors like Tesla that surpass the quota.

In March, Reuters reported that government officials are considering mandating that 8 percent of new vehicles sold fall under the NEV category by 2019; that would rise to 10 percent in 2019 and 12 percent in 2020, two auto executives said.

Toyota has been preparing to move back into the EV market after investing its resources in hydrogen fuel cell vehicles and hybrid vehicles in recent years. In December, a group of Toyota executives headed by CEO Akio Toyoda forged a collaborative to develop EV technology. That group consists of Denso, Aisin Seiki, and Toyota Industries.

China includes battery electric vehicles, plug-in hybrid electric vehicles, and fuel cell vehicles under the NEV category. NEVs are making for about 2 percent of total sales now in China.

Toyota has expressed interest in selling it Mirai fuel cell vehicle in China. The refueling infrastructure is not there, which sets up another set of problems for Toyota to consider making a splash on that front.

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Electric cars may make the most sense to meet government mandates and car buyer interest in the China market.

That could include plug-in hybrids. Toyota’s China operations Hiroji Onishi told reporters last year that the Japanese carmaker plans to launch plug-in hybrid versions of the Toyota Corolla and Levin in China in 2018.

There’s always the Toyota Prius Prime plug-in hybrid, which has done very well in the U.S. market.

Reuters


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