While many of us were tempted to postulate that Toyota’s recent creation of an electric vehicle division perhaps wasn’t a serious move, the recent appointment of company president Akio Toyoda as head of the division seems to contradict that line of thought.
Notably, Akio Toyoda is actually the grandson of founder Kiichiro Toyoda, and is apparently intent on speeding up electric vehicle development plans. He’s been at the head of the company since 2009, though, so presumably was integral to the company’s initial decision to pursue hydrogen fuel cell vehicles over battery-electrics (whether out of actual hope for the technology or simply for PR purposes).
Toyoda will apparently be heading the electric vehicle planning department along with Executive Vice Presidents Mitsuhisa Kato and Shigeki Terashi.
A spokesperson for the company by the name of Kayo Doi stated: “By putting the president and vice presidents in charge of the department, we plan to speed up development of electric cars. … The president will directly oversee the department’s operations to enable decisions to be made quickly and nimbly.”
Automotive News provides more: “The department comprises a new in-house unit to plan Toyota’s strategy to develop and market electric cars as part of the company’s efforts to keep pace with the tightening global emissions regulations.”
Continuing: “Toyota is also shifting the chief engineer of its Prius gasoline-hybrid to its EV efforts, appointing Koji Toyoshima to head the division’s engineering team. Toyoshima will also join the four-member EV strategy unit, which will include representatives from group suppliers — Denso Corp, Aisin Seiki Co, and Toyota Industries Corp.”
This news, along with some earlier announcements, should put to rest the idea that Toyota is still refusing to take the rapidly growing electric vehicle market seriously. I’m guessing that company execs have decided that they don’t want to lose market share any further, and may even be aiming to steal market share if they bring compelling electric vehicles to market before their rivals do (Honda, I’m looking at you).
Obviously, though, we’ll have to wait to see how things play out over the next few years. Toyota is reportedly aiming to begin mass production of a long-range electric car by 2020.
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