Toyota Motor’s incoming Chief Executive Officer Koji Sato called his new management team a “diverse lineup” in terms of communication styles when explaining the carmaker’s strategy toward an electrified future.
It wasn’t so diverse in other ways. All seven of his top deputies are men.
At Toyota, the world’s No. 1 carmaker, only one of the nine current board members is a woman — Teiko Kudo.
Toyota does at least have a woman executive in Yumi Otsuka, who is chief sustainability officer. She’s being appointed as a senior fellow from an operating officer position, according to Monday’s announcement.
Bullish on EV
Sato said he wanted to accelerate development of parts and manufacturing methods optimised for EVs, calling for an “EV-first mind-set” in building out the EV lineup.
He stressed that “electrification” is a key theme for his team and promised to develop a totally new, next-generation electric vehicle by 2026. That will be a Lexus, while Toyota Motor will also beef up all its EV model offerings, Sato said.
While Toyota is spending ¥4 trillion ($30 billion) to roll out 30 electric vehicle models by 2030, its strategy of offering multiple options for car buyers — gasoline engines, hybrids, battery-based EVs and hydrogen-powered cars — has led to criticism it isn’t shifting fast enough.
Toyota has billed the move as an effort to stay abreast of social changes like electrification. At times it has been seen as lagging its rivals in EVs.
The company’s success with hybrids, which have both a battery and a gas engine, and hydrogen fuel cells may be partly behind that perception.
Sato reiterated the view, that Toyota is intent on reducing emissions with models that are already widespread.
Toyota officials have always said they have BEV technology, which stands for “battery electric vehicles.” But that market has been dominated by Tesla, Japanese rival Nissan and BYD of China.
“We have been working on developing BEVs, but the perception may not have reflected that as well,” Sato said. The EVs Toyota offers can’t be just more EVs to keep up with the times, but “must answer the question of what kind of EV Toyota can offer,” he said.
Sato and the other executives said the company's entire production system must be revamped to make quality EVs. Toyota is also grappling with the high cost of the batteries, although lowering costs is not a goal in itself. Toyota prides itself on its “just in time” production system.
Toyota will also make more intelligent cars that are safer and more fun, Sato said, implying they will link to the net and offer other entertainment features.
With its management reshuffle, Toyota's chief executive and president, Akio Toyoda, who is grandson of the company's founder, becomes its chairman. Toyoda did not appear at Monday's announcement.
Sato has also overseen the Lexus luxury division and Toyota motor racing. The appointments still need shareholders' approval, scheduled for the company's next general meeting.