Toyota executives had a moment of inspiration when the company first developed the Prius. That moment, apparently, is long gone.
The Prius was the world’s first hybrid car, years ahead of all competitors. The first model, a small sedan, was a classic Toyota“Reliable custom vehicle for commuting.” After a major redesign in 2004, sales began at a rapid pace. The Prius’s Kammback profile was immediately recognizable, and the car’s combination of economy, economy and practicality was unmatched. People kidnapped them. There are even celebrities who wanted to burn their ecological bona fides hit by a car. Leonardo DiCaprio appeared at the 2008 Oscars in one.
As Prius’ hybrid technology has improved over the years, it has begun to appear on other models, from the small Prius c to the three-row Highlander. Even the company’s luxury brand, Lexus, hybridized several of its cars and SUVs.
Toyota has been a leader in environmentally friendly vehicles for years. Its efficient cars and crossover compensate for emissions from larger trucks and SUVs, giving the company an advantage in terms of fuel consumption over some of the competition. By May 2012, Toyota had sold 4 million vehicles in the Prius family around the world.
Next month, Tesla presented Model S, which toppled Toyota ‘s hybrid from a leader in green transportation. The new car proved it on a long journey electric vehicles, although expensive, they can be both practical and desirable. Advances in batteries have promised to cut prices, which will eventually lead EV to price parity with fossil fuel vehicles.
But Toyota misunderstood what Tesla represented. Although Toyota invested in Tesla, it did not view the startup as a threat but as a small player that could help Toyota fulfill its EV mandates. In a way, that attitude was justified. The two generally did not compete in the same segments, and Toyota’s global volume lagged behind that of the small American manufacturer. In addition, the hybrids were just a halt until Toyota’s hydrogen fuel cells were ready. At the time, the company thought that long-distance hydrogen vehicles and fast refueling would become obsolete.
Obviously, Toyota did not accept the subtle shift that took place. It is true that hybrids were a bridge for cleaner fuels, but Toyota overestimated the length of that bridge. Just as Blackberry rejected the iPhone, Toyota rejected Tesla and the EVs. Blackberry thought the world would need physical keyboards for many years to come. Toyota thought the world would need gasoline for a few more decades. They were both wrong.
By tying to hybrids and betting its future on hydrogen, Toyota has now found itself in an awkward position. Governments around the world are moving to ban any type of fossil fuel vehicle, even earlier than Toyota predicted. With falling electric vehicle prices and expanding infrastructure, fuel cell vehicles are unlikely to be ready on time.
In an attempt to protect its investment, Toyota is intensively lobbying against battery-powered electric vehicles. But is it too late?
Hydrogen dead end
Having spent the last decade ignoring or rejecting EVs, Toyota now finds itself lagging behind in an industry that is rapidly preparing for an electrical – not just electrified – transition.
Sales of Toyota’s fuel cell vehicles have not set the world on fire – Mirai it’s still a slow salesman, even if it’s bundled with thousands of dollars worth of hydrogen, and it’s unclear whether its winning but slow redesign will help. Toyota’s entry into the EV was timid. Initial efforts focused on SSD batteries which, although lighter and safer than existing lithium-ion batteries, have proven challenging for economical production, similar to fuel cells. Last month, the company announced that it would release more traditional EV models in the coming years, but The first will not be available until the end of 2022.
Faced with a losing hand, Toyota does what most majority corporations do when it finds itself in the wrong game – struggling to change the game.
Toyota is lobbying governments to reduce water emissions or oppose the phasing out of fossil fuel vehicles, according to New York Times report. For the past four years, Toyota’s political contribution to American politicians and PACs has had more than doubled. These contributions also led the company to hot water. By donating to congressmen who oppose stricter emission limits, the company funded MPs who opposed confirming the results of the 2020 presidential election. Although Toyota promised in January that it would stop, it was caught making donations to controversial lawmakers as early as last month.