A common public refrain among Tesla fans and shareholders is that “dinosaur legacy automakers’ are intentionally slowing down the development of electric vehicles, most likely because they are in cahoots with “big oil.” In the privacy of their detached 2-garage homes, the song turns into an evening prayer for that the OEMs will keep on sleeping, such as not to trample on the nascent demand for electric cars. The prayers have not been heard. Today, Toyota, the world’s (currently) largest automaker, declared its full support for battery-electric vehicles, and this after the other two of the top three automakers, Volkswagen and the Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi Alliance, have long thrown their considerable industrial might behind electric cars.
The big story of today is not just that Toyota, a company widely suspected of harboring anti-battery tendencies, is going full-bore BEV. The much bigger story is that Toyota is bringing three additional automakers to the electric party: Subaru, Suzuki, and Mazda (the latter not yet officially, but I have it on – see below – excellent authority that Mazda will be next on board.) Convinced by Toyota to join a coalition that shares common platforms, technologies, batteries and not to forget goals, Subaru, Suzuki, and Mazda add the production and sales power of roundabout six million vehicles produced and sold annually and globally to Toyota’s ten million, making it by far the largest block of companies to join the electric fray.
Before we go into details, here are the bullets I took for you during (and after) a press conference today in Toyota’s Megaweb in Tokyo:
In addition to a BEV-cooperation with Subaru announced yesterday, Toyota did let slip today that its minivehicle-car arm Daihatsu will develop compact EVs together with kei-car giant Suzuki.
After the meeting, I asked Toyota’s President of Advanced Technologies Development, the affable Shigeki Terashi, what happened to Mazda after a technology-partnership with Toyota was announced in 2015, and doesn’t a company deeply committed to extending the life of the ICE need electric assistance the most? A grinning Terashi replied: “Along with other topics, we have discussed EVs with Mazda for a few years already. Today, I did not reveal all the projects we are working on right now, and Mazda is one of them.”
Toyota and its partners will make and sell the whole battery-powered spectrum, from electric scooters to full-sized BEV SUVs. Some of them will be available as early as next year.
Most EVs will be based on a newly developed BEV-platform, called “e-TNGA,” an electric cousin of the modular “Toyota New Generation Architecture” underpinning Toyota’s latest and future models.
First BEVs will be launched onto the Chinese market in 2020, and then onto the world.
The U.S. market will likely get an electric Lexus, and/or a Toyota-branded electric sports car.
But wait, there's more!: