Toyota is the world's largest automaker, and it builds pretty much every type of vehicle you can think of. But if there's one area it is lagging behind, it's electric cars.
The Japanese automaker sold only 24,466 BEVs worldwide last year, which is a drop in the ocean compared to the 2.6 million hybrids it sold during the same period – or the 1.3 million electric vehicles delivered by global EV leader Tesla in 2022.
Still, Toyota is determined to catch up. After the recently announced executive reshuffle effective April 1, which will see CEO Akio Toyoda replaced by former Lexus head Koji Sato, Toyota has pledged to revamp its EV strategy by accelerating the EV rollout and launching a dedicated BEV architecture by 2026.
In the meantime, Toyota is trying to understand what Tesla is doing right, and its engineers recently conducted a teardown study of the Tesla Model Y, according to a report from Automotive News.
What they found went beyond exposing key technological secrets of the world's best-selling electric vehicle model; engineers were reportedly stunned by the Model Y's simplistic yet efficient vehicle structure built with an advanced manufacturing prowess.
"Taking the skin off the Model Y, it was truly a work of art. It's unbelievable," said one Toyota executive who analyzed the Tesla part by part. They were particularly amazed by how different the latest versions of the Model Y were under the skin compared to earlier versions that looked the same on the outside.
Gallery: 2021 Tesla Model Y
Manufacturing breakthroughs like the use of giga casting to eliminate countless parts and brackets, and the structural battery pack that acts as the car's floor itself were singled out by Toyota engineers.
According to their estimates shared with Automotive News, Tesla's approach eliminated hundreds of parts and up to 220 pounds (100 kilograms), while increasing battery range and slashing overall costs.
One executive said, "It's a whole different manufacturing philosophy," while another added, “We need a new platform designed as a blank-sheet EV." Those are stunning admissions coming from executives of Toyota, a company renowned for its designed-for-manufacturing expertise.
The teardown showed how far behind some old-guard automakers like Toyota really are when it comes to EVs. Engineers concluded that the Japanese automaker needs a great leap forward to catch up with Tesla's way of building electric vehicles.
They reportedly identified four main areas where Tesla has a big advantage over Toyota: dedicated platform, advanced battery, designated EV production site, and software-defined architecture. Tesla has all four of those, Toyota has none – at least not yet.
Head over to Automotive News' detailed report to find out what Toyota plans to do in the coming years to close the gap with Tesla.