Toyota Motor held its annual General Shareholders' Meeting yesterday in Tokyo, and a fair part of it was dedicated to the company's electrification strategy.
As the market holds high expectations for BEVs as a key option for achieving carbon neutrality, Toyota's new EV division, called BEV Factory, was the center of attention. The new unit integrates all BEV development, production, and business processes with the aim of "enabling speedier decision-making and execution."
The division's next-generation BEVs will first reach the market in 2026, and are expected to make up 1.7 million of the 3.5 million BEVs Toyota plans to sell in 2030. Naturally, BEV Factory's president Takero Kato had to answer several of the 11 questions taken from shareholders.
In light of Toyota's announcement that it will invest more in battery plants and begin producing BEVs in the US in 2025, a shareholder questioned whether the company would be able to keep up with Tesla, which is often the standard against which Toyota is judged by critics who say the Japanese automaker is lagging on BEVs.
While Toyota's Executive Vice President Yoichi Miyazaki and Toyota's chief scientist Gill Pratt reiterated the company's strategy to prepare a diverse range of powertrain solutions, the head of Toyota's BEV Factory had a more detailed and enthusiastic response.
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"I love BEVs. Through BEVs, I want to change the future of cars, monozukuri, and work. First, the cars. We will aim for the same cruising range as the hybrid vehicles that have been so popular. This is a big task. We want people to feel Toyota's unique character in the BEV products we create and deliver."
While achieving similar range to Toyota's hybrids – up to 900 miles by 2028 – is a very ambitious target, Kato said the automaker will also make significant changes when it comes to production and the number of parts required to make a vehicle.
"Next, monozukuri [Japanese for 'production' or 'making of things']. We want to change our vehicle structure and halve the length of our production lines, and reduce or eliminate physically strenuous work, protecting Japanese monozukuri and creating a happy workplace for an aging population."
He also mentioned that in the current era, "speed is the key" when it comes to the way the BEV Factory unit works.
"Our team brings together all functions of a company, not just development. Our team shares the same concerns of the genba [factory floor] and holds discussions every day. At the same time, working with new partners will enable all of us to come up with new, richer ideas. Everything is new, so we're very excited! Our excitement and fun doing our jobs will surely be conveyed to everyone."
Toyota's former CEO and current chair Akio Toyoda, who hasn't been the strongest advocate of BEVs during his reign, followed up on Kato's response. "I don't know if love can beat Tesla. However, cars made by engineers who love them will move people's hearts. We hope you'll look forward to the BEVs that we create," Toyoda replied.