The US is slowing down the road to adopting policies that would put more electric vehicles on the road, but it’s not slow enough for Toyota. The Japanese automaker, the world’s largest auto company, has quietly lobbied policymakers in Washington, D.C., to resist the push to move to an all-electric future — in part because Toyota is lagging behind the rest of the industry in making the transition itself.
According to The New York Times, a top Toyota executive has been meeting with congressional leaders behind closed doors in recent weeks to argue against the Biden administration’s plans to spend billions of dollars to fuel the shift to EVs. Its director, Chris Reynolds, has argued that hybrids, such as the Toyota Prius, as well as hydrogen-powered fuel cell vehicles should also be in the mix.
In addition, Toyota is also pushing back against EV-friendly policies through the automotive industry’s leading lobbying group, the Alliance for Automotive Innovation. The group, which represents the major automakers and their suppliers and is chaired by Reynolds, has argued against the Biden administration’s plan to adopt the so-called California compromise as its official position, the Time reports.
Last year, a group of auto companies struck a deal on exhaust emissions with California, which had tried to enact stricter regulations than the US as a whole. Under President Donald Trump, the Environmental Protection Agency had attempted to strip California of its power to set its own emissions standards. But under Biden, that rule was reversed, allowing California and other states to impose stricter standards.
Toyota, which sided with the Trump administration in the fight with California, was not part of the original compromise. And the company has argued against EV-friendly policies in India and also in its native Japan.
Toyota’s behind-the-scenes effort to slow the momentum behind EV-friendly policies is surprising, given its status as an early adopter of battery-powered transportation. With the introduction of the Toyota Prius in 1997, the company helped pave the way for Tesla and others by proving that vehicles with alternative powertrains could be immensely popular. And more recently, the automaker has unveiled plans to bring 70 new models to market by 2025, including battery-electric, hydrogen-fuel cell and gas-electric hybrids.
But that doesn’t hide the fact that Toyota has fallen far behind its competitors and seems content to rest on its laurels, while the rest of the industry has picked it up several times. Companies such as Nissan, General Motors and Volkswagen have been selling pure battery-electric vehicles for years, while also revealing their plans to phase out gas-powered cars entirely. And Toyota’s failure to embrace EVs is not a new concept; The New York Times so much noted in this 2009 article.
Toyota’s top executives, including billionaire CEO Akio Toyoda, have historically called the trend toward electric vehicles “overhyped”, in part because of the emissions associated with power plants — which is a favorite topic of conversation used by the oil and gas industry.
The company recently came under fire after it became known that it… the largest corporate donor to Republican lawmakers who objected to certification of the 2020 presidential election. A majority of those politicians also dispute the scientific consensus on climate change. Toyota initially defended the contributions, but later said it would stop them?. You know the company is in bad shape when a Toyota spokesperson has to confirm this to the… Time that the automaker does indeed believe that climate change is real.
Toyota’s argument that hybrids and fuel cell cars should also be included in the conversation isn’t a bad one. Hybrid vehicles in particular are an important stepping stone towards the wider adoption of EVs, especially as the charging infrastructure is still in its infancy.
But that argument might carry more weight if the automaker’s record of fuel economy was actually, well, good. According to the EPAToyota has fallen in its fuel efficiency rankings across its entire fleet, going from an industry leader to near the bottom with GM and Ford. This is because the company has boosted sales of huge gas-guzzling trucks and SUVs, which typically yield greater profits than smaller sedans and hatchbacks.