“It is difficult for Toyota to give up the internal combustion engine”

Lhe Greenpeace activists will be happy. During the COP26 in Glasgow (Scotland) on the climate, in early November, they stigmatized Toyota, which only occupies the 10e rank in the list of manufacturers for the release of combustion engines. The world number one in the automotive sector announced, Tuesday, December 14, a clear acceleration in the development of the electric car, where it lags behind its major competitor Volkswagen, which will invest 89 billion over the next five years to catch up with the American You’re here.

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Toyota sells a few thousand electric cars. Its CEO, Akio Toyoda, wants to sell 3.5 million in 2030, available in thirty models, a third of its current production and 75% more than its previous objective. In the meantime, all premium Lexus vehicles will go electric in Europe, North America and China. This catching-up has a price: 31 billion euros between 2022 and 2030, and even 62 billion, by adding batteries and all low-carbon technologies.

Adapt to demand

Japanese industrialists are not very agile, and Mr. Toyoda could not use the muscular methods of the boss of Volkswagen, Herbert Diess, who shook the giant of Wolfsburg (Germany) so much that his crown wavered. Toyota executives had to reach a consensus and not draw a line on past strategic choices in favor of the hybrid vehicle. It is necessary “Wait a little longer until we understand where the market is going”, a souligné M. Toyoda.

It intends to adapt to the demand and possibilities (purchasing power, charging stations, etc.) of each country. Why condemn vehicles to Brazilian biofuel? Give up on the fuel cell (hydrogen) or the plug-in hybrid? What he can do in Western Europe, to comply with the demands of the Brussels Commission for zero heat engines by 2035, is impossible in India or Africa. And even in Japan, which has become more dependent on fossil fuels since the Fukushima nuclear accident in 2011.

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Patron of the flagship brand of a country without energy and mineral resources, Mr. Toyoda knows that the development of the electric vehicle is subject to two strong constraints, which are added to the management of job cuts: access to minerals and metals necessary for batteries (lithium, cobalt, nickel), the demand for which will explode, and the production of renewable electricity, without which new cars have only name “clean”. It is more difficult for Toyota to give up the internal combustion engine than for Greenpeace to distribute green points.