Toyota Australia balks at claims that its lack of electric vehicles makes it a carbon emitter

Sean Hanley, Toyota Australia’s vice president of sales and marketing, has fumed over allegations that his company is a handbrake on reducing carbon emissions due to its slow adoption of battery electric vehicles.

Toyota, by far Australia’s largest car brand with a market share of over 20 per cent, will not launch its first full electric vehicle until 2023 in the form of the (delayed) bZ4x SUV, which will be expensive and limited in supply.

The company has also been accused of urging US lawmakers to reconsider a full-scale EV push there, according to the New York Times, due in part to its commitment to hydrogen fuel cell and hybrid cars – the latter being an area in which this is the case is easy to become the leader.

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An enthusiastic and admittedly “frustrated” Mr Hanley dismissed that narrative when we asked his response to allegations this week that Toyota had gone from climate hero to climate villain.

MORE: Toyota clashes with shareholders over its slow EV adoption MORE: Toyota accelerates battery EV sales target by 75 percent

delivered Recognition: car expert

“I’ll start by saying something that our global president has said several times that I totally agree with: carbon is the enemy here,” he told us.

“My answer to Toyota [being] Perceived as lagging behind is a bit frustrating at times as we have sold over 230,000 hybrid vehicles in the Australian market since October 2001. I think that over these 22 years we have played a significant role in reducing our carbon footprint in the Australian domestic market.

“And while I understand everyone has an opinion on electric cars and how it should be, when it should be and why it should be, carbon is the enemy.

“There is not a single car company, including Toyota, that does not want to reduce its carbon footprint as quickly as practical and possible. We allocated US$5.6 billion for battery production in Japan and the US [this week].

delivered Recognition: car expert

“Carbon is the enemy, not a specific powertrain. I remember when we launched the first hybrid, and let me tell you, we were the only car company that’s been consistently in the market for those years… no one else has. Another car company, another car company tried [being Honda].

“In fact, I remember people thinking hybrid was a fad. So to say that we are behind is actually a false statement. We’ve been leading this race in this country for 22 years, right? In a practical sense.

“Now I hear this comment about how we’re lagging behind and I think people don’t realize how much CO2 we’ve reduced in 22 years on the Australian domestic market. And maybe the question to the people who say we’re behind should be, ‘Well, how much have you cut in the Australian market over the last 22 years?’”

When we brought the case to Mr. Hanley that Toyota’s longstanding hybrid leadership made the undeniably slow pace of electric vehicle adoption even more jarring, he relied on the company’s longstanding view that a diverse array of powertrains would be needed to ensure no one was left behind Behind.

Matthew Callachor, President and CEO of Toyota Motor Australia Recognition: car expert

“There aren’t too many other automakers with a fuel cell hydrogen car right now, we’re going to launch our first battery electric vehicle next year, we’re going to have hybrids, we’re going to have plug-in hybrids.

“The point is that we believe carbon is the enemy and to achieve carbon neutrality you need to offer a wide range of technologies that are relevant to the market you operate in,” he asserted.

“Otherwise I don’t think you can get there that quickly because the Australian market is very different. We want carbon neutrality, we want to get down to zero emissions, but you have to do it in a practical and thoughtful way.

“So my message to those who say we’re lagging behind: we don’t agree. But what I will say is as an industry, [including] industry associations and lobby groups, [we] need to come together and agree on a direction because we all know we want to go carbon neutral.”

Akio Toyoda in December 2021 with a series of Toyota EV concepts Recognition: car expert

It’s clear that Mr Hanley is referring in part to a growing split between the Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries, the car brand’s current governing body, and the more recent EV Council, which claims we need to ban new internal combustion engine cars by 2035 to achieve net to reach zero by 2050.

The FCAI has been accused of pushing a watered-down emissions reduction program, with some in the industry privately claiming it was in part due to Toyota’s outsized influence.

Matthew Callachor, President and CEO of Toyota Motor Australia, is Chairman of the FCAI.

Mr Hanley added his view that any mandatory technology enforcement that is not fully thought out would leave people behind, and suggested policies that work in Europe or parts of the US (where new ZEVs will be mandatory by 2035) , for Australians may not work .

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“…I’ve always been taught over the years that the customer comes first and I don’t think that’s changed here. How are you going to tell all these farmers that they have to have battery cars that aren’t practical or don’t work for them or cost a fortune?

“Our mission is to bring this technology to market in a practical way that offers carbon neutrality and is still fit for purpose.”

According to FCAI data, Toyota is the lowest emitter of CO2 per car when it comes to passenger cars and light SUVs, but far less well with its best-selling heavy 4x4s and commercial vehicles, which particularly dominate Australia’s regions.

Australia, for example, is the world’s largest market for the LandCruiser, and the HiLux diesel Ute is the best-selling vehicle on the market.

MORE: Dumping Ground No More? The Australian Government’s Affordable Electric Vehicle pushMORE: Q&A with Paul Sansom, Managing Director of Volkswagen Group Australia Toyota Australia balks at claims that its lack of electric vehicles makes it a carbon emitter

James Brien

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