Toyota shareholders are worried that Akio Toyoda may harm the company’s future when he criticizes combustion-engined car bans in Japan. The company’s CEO – who is also the head of the JAMA (Japanese Automobile Manufacturers Association) – warned the country could “lose its strengths” if it kept planning to stop sales of these vehicles.
Toyoda said that in a meeting of JAMA and as the head of the association. As some readers warned us, that does not mean he is saying so on behalf of his company but rather in the name of all manufacturers in the association, which is an important difference. He may be defending the companies that cannot make the shift, even if Toyota is preparing for it.
According to the executive, Japan should “expand its options for technology” and “regulations and legislation should follow later.” As a country that exports most of what its automotive industry produces, that is an interesting position, with repercussions we should follow closely. Japan could stop internal sales of ICE vehicles and allow manufacturers to keep exporting them, for example.
The five shareholders Reuters spoke to may have missed that Toyoda was speaking as JAMA’s head and are not happy with his remarks. The AkademikerPension, Storebrand Asset Management, Nordea Asset Management, KLP, and the Church of England Pensions Board all fear Toyoda “does not seem to realize what is at stake here.”
Apart from the Church of England Pensions Board, all other investors come from Nordic countries – two from Denmark and two from Norway, which is notorious for EV adoption. They may think other countries will adopt electric cars at the same pace, which may kill combustion-engined vehicles sooner than expected, killing companies that cannot sell them.
The truth is that this may only happen if EV battery pack prices fall to the point that they make electric cars more affordable than ICE vehicles. As an exporter, Toyota may adopt EVs in countries that ban combustion engines and keep producing them for countries that do not have such restrictions – most of the developing or poor ones.
Akio Toyoda is not an enthusiast of electric vehicles, and he made that clear more than once. Ironically, his comments about the subject were not just a matter of personal preferences but also a concern with his company's survival.
If Toyota is not able to make money from combustion-engined vehicles, it will have to do so with electric cars. Companies are still struggling to do that, as even Tesla’s quarter results on the black reveal: without regulatory credits, they would not happen. Volkswagen’s case for the ID.4 in the US also lights a yellow light about that.
In that sense, it is worth asking who is more concerned with the company's future: Akio Toyoda or the shareholders. What we also need to ask is if the future of Toyota can include clean mobility sustainably. Whoever can answer yes to that question will please shareholders and people concerned with the environment alike.