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Toyota centres strategy on hybrids

The Yomiuri Shimbun

Publication Date : 26-09-2012


Automaker eyes emerging markets in bid to boost eco-friendly lineup

Toyota Motor Corp. has announced its new strategy of boosting its lineup of environmentally friendly cars will focus on developing hybrid vehicles. However, in addition to marketing 21 new hybrid models, the firm will also launch a turbocharged gasoline-engine car and an electric car to appeal to emerging markets.

"[Hybrid cars] have core technology that can be applied for many things, such as EVs and fuel cell vehicles," Takeshi Uchiyamada, executive vice president of Toyota, said at a Tokyo press conference Monday.

Toyota took the lead in the green car market when it sold the first model of the Prius, the world's first commercial hybrid car, in 1997.

The firm will market 21 new hybrid models by the end of 2015 either by developing new models or completely revamping conventional ones.

By doing so, the automaker aims to cement its current lead in the hybrid market.

However, key components of hybrid vehicles, such as the battery, motor and control system, are expensive and require special technologies for inspections and repairs.

These "disadvantages" have become more noticeable since emerging markets have become large enough to affect the global auto market after the Lehman shock in 2008.

In Japan, sales of hybrid vehicles account for about 40 per cent of Toyota's overall sales for the period from January to July. However, hybrid vehicle sales was about 8 per cent of the firm's global sales during the same period.

According to the strategy, Toyota plans to market an eco-friendly vehicle with a turbocharged gasoline engine after 2014. Such cars were first introduced to the market by European automakers, such as Germany's Volkswagen, as they were lagging behind Toyota in developing hybrid vehicles and other relevant technologies.

A turbocharger can supplement the horsepower sacrificed in an eco-friendly car by using a small, fuel-efficient engine.

Turbocharged gasoline engine cars have a relatively simple structure that can easily be mass-produced, which helped European automakers increase sales in emerging markets.

As a result, Toyota apparently could no longer ignore turbochargers as a practical measure to improve fuel efficiency for gasoline-powered cars, which still account for the majority of models on the auto market.

Concerning EVs, Toyota has not actively developed them for a long time as marketing them "requires developing new infrastructure, such as charging stations," a senior Toyota official said.

However, EVs produced by Mitsubishi Motors Corp. and Nissan Motor Co. have become popular despite their inability to drive long distances and other performance issues.

Toyota clearly defines EVs as a vehicle meant for travelling short distances. The company plans to secure a share in the EV market by launching an electric compact called eQ, based on its iQ small car model, in Japan and the United States in December or after.


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