Exclusive: After pressure from Toyota boss, Japan emphasized support for hybrids

TOKYO, June 24 (Reuters) – The head of Toyota Motor Corp (7203.T) has pressed the Japanese government to make clear it supports hybrid vehicles as much as battery electric or it will lose support from the auto industry, a senior lawmaker told a meeting. of the ruling party.

The lobbying by Akio Toyoda, chairman of Toyota and chairman of the Japan Automobile Manufacturers Association (JAMA) industry group, comes as the automaker faces increasing scrutiny from green investors who say it has been slow to adopt battery electric vehicles and pressured governments to delay a transition for them. see More information

Akira Amari, a former minister of industry and a veteran member of the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), requested changes to the government’s annual economic policy roadmap at a June 3 meeting, saying he had spoken with Toyoda a day earlier, according to notes and audio. of the meeting reviewed by Reuters.

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The final version of the document included a reference to “so-called electric vehicles” and appeared to put fossil-fuel hybrids on a par with zero-emission battery vehicles, although environmentalists say there is a big difference.

“I spoke with President Toyoda yesterday and he said that JAMA cannot endorse a government that rejects hybrids,” Amari said at the policy meeting of LDP lawmakers, according to the notes and audio.

Using synthetic fuel such as hydrogen would make hybrid cars “100% clean energy” and the policy document should make that explicit, Amari said.

“If we don’t make this clear, JAMA will react with all its might,” Amari said, according to the notes and audio.

“If we don’t say that hybrids are included in the category of electric vehicles, it will not look good,” he said, adding that a reference to electric vehicles should be changed to “so-called electric vehicles”.

Amari confirmed to Reuters that he asked for the inclusion of “calls” to make it clear that electric vehicles are not limited to battery electric vehicles and include hybrids. He said he didn’t ask for any other changes.

He confirmed that he had spoken with Toyoda.

“What Mr. Toyoda is trying to say is that hybrids that run on synthetic fuels are good for the environment because they are extremely fuel efficient. He said he would be extremely unhappy if hybrids were rejected. That’s what he said. told me. He asked if the LDP was rejecting hybrids and I said we were not doing such a thing.”

Amari told Reuters that by developing synthetic fuels, automakers would be able to produce zero-emission internal combustion engines. These fuels can also be used in aircraft, which do not run on batteries, he said.

In a statement to Reuters, JAMA said the auto industry is making every effort to achieve its goal of becoming carbon neutral by 2050. As the goal was carbon neutrality, it was important to expand options and not limit yourself to technologies. specific, he said.

It was also necessary to respond to various situations and needs of customers in each country and region, he adds.

A Toyota spokesperson referred Reuters to JAMA.

IT’S NO LONGER A FOOTNOTE

The final version of the document, available online, refers to Japan’s 2035 target of all domestic new car sales being “so-called electric vehicles”, and specifically mentions in the main text that these vehicles include hybrids.

An earlier May 31 draft, also available online, shows the reference to hybrids only in a footnote. The main text refers to the 2035 target as having all new car sales being “electric vehicles”.

The annual policy document is of great importance to the government and serves as the framework for its future policy.

Toyota, the world’s biggest automaker by sales, said fossil fuels, not internal combustion engines, were the problem. In addition to the hybrids he popularized more than two decades ago with the Prius, he’s also championed hydrogen technology, although so far it hasn’t caught on to battery electric cars.

Hybrids, including plug-in hybrids, accounted for nearly 44% of new passenger cars sold in Japan last year, while battery electric vehicles accounted for less than 1%, according to data from the Japan Automobile Dealers Association.

This does not include mini cars, trucks or buses.

Energy and climate think-tank InfluenceMap ranked Toyota the worst among the major automakers for its history of lobbying on climate policy, which includes public statements and interaction with governments.

It was criticized by its own investors, including pension funds, for its lobbying. Denmark’s AkademikerPension sold most of its stake in Toyota last year.

Last year, Toyota committed 8 trillion yen ($60 billion) to electrify its cars by 2030, with half of that going to develop battery-electric vehicles. Still, it expects annual sales of these cars to reach just 3.5 million vehicles by the end of the decade, or about a third of current sales.

On Thursday, Toyota said it recalled more than 2,000 of its first mass-produced electric vehicle, the bZ4X SUV, less than two months after the vehicle’s launch, due to the risk of the wheel coming off. see More information

He says hybrids make sense in markets where the infrastructure isn’t ready to support a faster shift to battery-powered vehicles and that customers should have more options for cleaner technology.

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Reporting by Makiko Yamazaki; Additional reporting by Nobuhiro Kubo, Maki Shiraki and Kaori Kaneko; Edited by David Dolan and Kim Coghill

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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