The U.S. is slowing toward adopting policies that would put more electric vehicles on the road, but for Toyota, it’s not slow enough. The Japanese automaker, the world’s largest automotive company, has quietly sought out Washington DC policymakers to resist the desire to move to a fully electronic future – in part because Toyota is lagging behind the rest of the industry itself.
By New York timesThe Toyota executive has met with congressional leaders behind closed doors in recent weeks to defend the Biden administration’s plans to spend billions of dollars to encourage the transition to electric cars. Director Chris Reynolds has argued that hybrids like the Toyota Prius as well as hydrogen-powered fuel cell cars should also be in the mix.
In addition, Toyota is also working to combat energy-saving policies through the automotive industry’s most important DC-based advocacy group, the Alliance for Automotive Innovation. A group representing the major car companies and their suppliers, chaired by Reynolds, has opposed the Biden administration’s plan to accept the so-called California compromise as its official position, Times reports.
Last year, a group of car companies signed an agreement on exhaust emissions with California, which had sought to impose stricter rules than the entire United States. Under the leadership of President Donald Trump, the Environmental Protection Agency had sought to release California’s power to set its own emission standards. But during Biden’s time, that rule changed, allowing California and other states to set stricter standards.
Toyota, which was on the side of the Trump administration in the fight with California, was not part of the original compromise. And the company has opposed the EV-friendly policy in India and its home country of Japan.
Toyota’s behind-the-scenes efforts to slow down behind an environmentally friendly policy are surprising given its position as an early adopter of battery-powered transportation. The Toyota Prius was released in 1997 and helped Tesla and others pave the way by proving that vehicles with alternative transmissions can be extremely popular. And lately, the automaker has revealed plans to release 70 new models by 2025, including electric battery, hydrogen fuel cell and gas-electric hybrid.
But that doesn’t hide the fact that Toyota has fallen far behind its competitors, it seems the content is resting on its laurels, while the rest of the industry has found it several times. Companies like Nissan, General Motors and Volkswagen have been selling clean battery-powered vehicles for years and have revealed their plans to stop using petrol cars altogether. And Toyota’s inability to embrace electric cars is not a new concept; New York times noted this article from 2009.
Toyota’s top management including billionaire CEO Akio Toyoda, have been on record for calling the trend towards electric vehicles “overloaded” partly due to emissions from power plants – a favorite point of discussion in the oil and gas industry.
The company came under fire recently after it was revealed the largest corporate donor to Republican lawmakers who opposed the certification of the 2020 presidential election. Most of these politicians also dispute the scientific consensus on climate change. Toyota originally defended but then later said it would stop them. You know things are bad for the company when a Toyota dealer needs to confirm Times that the carmaker really believes climate change is real.
Toyota’s argument that hybrids and fuel cell cars should also be included in the debate is not bad. Hybrid cars in particular are an important step towards the wider deployment of electric cars, especially when the charging infrastructure is still in its infancy.
But this argument might carry more weight if the carmaker’s experience in fuel economy were really good. According to the EPA, Toyota has dropped its fuel efficiency across its fleet by moving from an industry leader almost to the bottom with GM and Ford. This happens when the company has drifted into selling huge gas-screaming trucks and SUVs that tend to generate higher profits than smaller sedans and hatchbacks.