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Toyota’s new execs see industry crisis

President Akio Toyoda

Toyota’s newly promoted global executives, all from different backgrounds and companies, share President Akio Toyoda’s view that an industry crisis is looming.

Back in November, Toyota announced its plans to change its executive line-up and revise its organisational structure to boost business innovation in  January 2018.

A once-in-a-century change is occurring,” said Satoshi Ogiso, a former hybrid-vehicle engineer who left Toyota to run brake supplier Advics Co., and has returned as president of Toyota’s commercial vehicle business. “We have to overcome a time of major change.”

Even Toyota’s newly appointed chief communications officer, Masahiro Yamaoka, couldn’t help fretting aloud about Toyota’s challenges.

“In all aspects, we really can’t wait,” he said. “This is a survival or death situation.”

The crisis mentality is being cultured from the top by President Akio Toyoda, who is looking far beyond the next few quarters. Toyota is expecting a record net income for the current fiscal year.

Toyoda says his top priority is keeping the company nimble and responsive to the major change rising over the industry, including the spectre of self-driving cars.

Akihiro Fukutome, the new head of Toyota Financial Services Co. said his mission came from Toyoda – “He told me to blow a new wind from outside and quicken the pace of change.”

On the finance front, Fukutome said new mobility businesses, such as ride-sharing, are forcing Toyota to devise new revenue streams, combining finance and technology. Referring to the buzzword for innovative financial technologies, he added, “ ’Fintech’ is the word that is often used. I would like to do something new.”

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Toyota sets tough sales goal

Toyota aims to sell 1.4 million vehicles in China in 2018, nearly 9 per cent more than it sold last year.

The sales goal announced by Japan’s biggest automaker on Friday comes at a time when the world’s biggest auto market is experiencing a slowdown in overall vehicle sales growth.

China’s overall vehicle market growth was the weakest last year in at least two decades, increasing only 3 per cent year-on-year to 28.88 million vehicles.

Two insiders at the Japanese automaker said that the target is however more of a “stretch goal.” It is a target that is not the baseline sales forecast and one that executives acknowledge will be difficult to achieve, they said.

“If we could resolve this capacity issue, it would be easy to make the 1.4 million target. With sufficient capacity, we can possibly sell 1.5 million vehicles,” one of the two people said.

Toyota’s forecast for 2018 is relatively more upbeat than the previous few years in part because it expects to launch a couple of potentially high-volume subcompact sport-utility vehicles (SUVs) later this year, the people said.

A Toyota spokesman said that though the 2018 sales target was not one that can be easily achieved due to the highly competitive market environment, the recent launch of a redesigned Camry sedan and the planned introduction of two subcompact SUVs later this year would enable Toyota to challenge the previous year’s numbers.

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Airbag sensor recall in NZ

Toyota New Zealand is recalling 3,408 Toyota and Lexus models due to a possible concern with the air bag sensor.

Impacted models include the Toyota Corolla, Toyota Hilux, and Lexus NX 200t, manufactured in the second half of 2015.

The recall is due to the possibility that the insulation layers around the pressure sensor may peel over time, causing the airbag warning light to illuminate.

This can also lead to the curtain shield (side) and front airbags becoming deactivated.

There are currently 765 Toyota Corolla, 2,542 Hilux, and 100 Lexus NX200t affected in New Zealand.

The remedy will be completed free of charge by Toyota and Lexus dealerships and will depend on inspection of the vehicle for time of repair.

Owners of the vehicles, which are traceable through registration data, will be contacted by Toyota New Zealand through a remedy owner letter. 

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Toyota has sold over 3,000 Mirai

Toyota has announced that it has sold over 3,000 Mirai fuel-cell sedans in California. With over 3,000 Mirai fuel-cell vehicles on the road, the Mirai now accounts for more than 80% of all hydrogen fuel cell vehicles in the United States.

“Toyota remains at the forefront of developing and deploying hydrogen fuel cell technology, and we believe strongly in its potential to help realize a more sustainable and zero-emissions society,” said Bob Carter, Executive Vice President, Toyota Motor North America, Inc.

“From our success in launching the Mirai to our work in building the world’s first megawatt-scale carbonate fuel cell power generation plant, Toyota is proud to bring to market new uses for this versatile technology.”

The Toyota Mirai is a hydrogen fuel cell vehicle, one of the first such vehicles to be sold commercially.

To help further the adoption of fuel-cell vehicles, Toyota remains committed to supporting the development of a hydrogen refueling network.

Thirty-one hydrogen stations are now open in California, with an additional twelve stations projected to open in California in 2018.

Toyota has also teamed up with Air Liquide, to set up a network of 12 hydrogen fueling stations between New York and Boston, with the first station expected to launch in Boston later this year.

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Toyota takes out double

A bumper December has resulted in sales of new passenger vehicles coming in at 108,608 last year – 5.8 per cent ahead of 2016’s total of 102,644.

There were 8,151 units registered in the last month of 2017, which was a one per cent rise from 8,069 in December of the previous year.

The top-selling model for the year and month was Toyota’s Corolla on 7,801 units for 2017 and 1,116 in December, which represented an annual market share of 7.2 per cent. The RAV4 was second for the year on 4,635 and 4.3 per cent. Third spot went to the Kia Sportage with a market share of 3.3 per cent thanks to 3,559 sales.

The Corolla was 2017’s best-selling new passenger vehicle.

The marques ladder for 2017 was also topped by Toyota on 20,919 units and a market share of 19.3 per cent. Mazda took the runners-up spot with 9,927 units and 9.1 per cent. Holden secured an 8.9 share with 9,709 registrations to come third.

Overall, Toyota NZ is celebrating 30 years as the dominant brand for passenger and light commercial vehicles in this country. In 2017, its 68 dealers sold 33,008 new vehicles for a 20.7 per cent share of the market, according to the marque. It says this was up by 5,533 on 2016 for a jump of 20.1 per cent.

Neeraj Lala, general manager of new-vehicle sales, expects Toyota to remain at the top in 2018. “We have another exciting year ahead with a number of significant new models, including an updated Hilux. We expect market growth to continue, particularly in the SUV segment where we have six models.”

Another marque patting itself on the back is Mitsubishi Motors NZ, which reports overall growth of 29 per cent year on year.

“The Outlander has been a Kiwi family favourite for some time and the ASX resonates with a broad range of New Zealanders,” says Daniel Cook, general manager of vehicle sales and marketing. “With the Eclipse Cross having joined the family, we’re confident of continuing our market-leading growth in 2018.”

Cook describes breaking through 10,000 overall new-vehicle sales during 2017 as “massive – we set this target for a calendar year back in 2009 and haven’t let up since”.

Eight years of year-on-year growth have seen Mitsubishi increase its total car and light commercial market share to 7.4 per cent supported by “new releases, updates and a comprehensive approach to customer service”. It says it has been ahead of the curve in key areas – especially with ute and SUV sales.

“We have also kept innovation at the forefront of our new releases, such as the Outlander PHEV, New Zealand’s most popular plug-in hybrid SUV,” adds Cook. “We still have some big ambitions, so it’s important we set ourselves a challenge to build on recent success. We’re operating in a dynamic, highly competitive market offering more choice to consumers than ever.”

Last year was one that entered Subaru of New Zealand’s record books with more than 3,000 units sold. Its 3,347 new-car sales secured a market share of 3.1 per cent.

Managing director Wallis Dumper says that by November the marque was 27 per cent ahead year on year from 2016. The Outback made up nearly half of its total sales achieved in 2017. After a good 2016, it exceeded sales expectations to sit 15 per cent ahead last year.

“There has been remarkable demand for the new XV,” says Dumper. “The high numbers flying out of our dealerships means we don’t have enough supply to keep up with demand. In response to the unprecedented demand for our eight-model range of Boxer-engined beauties, we have received more production allocation from Japan.

“We were targeting this never-achieved-before figure of 3,000 sales at the beginning of last year and couldn’t have done it without our 16 partners across New Zealand.”

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Toyota introduces “e-Palettes”

Toyota Motor Corporation announced today a new mobility service, “e-Palette”, to tackle mobility and delivery services in the age of autonomous vehicles.

“This announcement marks a major step forward in our evolution towards sustainable mobility, demonstrating our continued expansion beyond traditional cars and trucks to the creation of new values including services for customers”, said Akio Toyoda, Toyota Motor Corporation President.

The e-Palette is both an announcement of a mobility alliance and partnership, and a physical concept of that alliance, a blank slate for a variety of transportation needs.  

“The new e-Palette Alliance will leverage Toyota’s proprietary Mobility Services Platform to develop a suite of connected mobility solutions and a flexible, purpose-built vehicle.”

Launch partners include Amazon, Mazda, Pizza Hut and Uber, who will collaborate on vehicle planning, application concepts and vehicle verification activities.

The e-Palette is a fully-automated, next generation battery electric vehicle (BEV) designed to be scalable and customisable for a range of “mobility as a service” businesses. 

It comes in three different sizes, with their lengths ranging from 4 meters to approximately 7 meters and is purposely designed to be flexible and reconfigurable to accommodate a wide range of equipment and an even broader range of uses.

Each e-Palette is also designed to be shared between businesses and to quickly transition between applications.

The e-Palette could serve an Uber during the day and be quickly transformed for shipping packages overnight. The exterior appearance can also be quickly switched by changing the exterior graphics.

Toyota plans to conduct feasibility testing of the e-Palette in various regions, including the United States, in the early 2020s.  It also hopes to contribute to the success of the Olympic and Paralympic Games Tokyo 2020 by providing mobility solutions like the e-Palette and other innovative mobility offerings.

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VW – world’s largest automaker

VW group sales beats Toyota to be world’s largest automaker for 2017

Bild am Sonntag, a well-known German newspaper, has reported that Volkswagen Group’s vehicle sales rose to around 10.7 million last year, putting them ahead of Toyota to become the world’s largest automaker. 

Citing in-house Volkswagen estimates, Bild am Sonntag, reported that higher delivery figures helped drive revenue above US$265 billion, a significant achievement after last year’s record of US$260 billion. 

VW is due to publish official 2017 group sales data on Jan. 17 and will release core financial results in late February.

In 2016, the first full year after VW’s emissions test-cheating scandal, group sales rose 3.8 percent to a record 10.3 million cars, helped by a double-digit increase in China and gains in Europe.

Toyota relinquished its four-year title as the world’s top-selling automaker to Volkswagen last year. This was the first time the German company held the title. Toyota said in December that it expects to sell 10.35 million cars worldwide in 2017 across its Toyota, Lexus, Daihatsu and Hino brands, up 2 per cent from 2016, and 10.5 million in 2018.

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Toyota creates new mobility company

Toyota Motor Corp. plans to merge two of its subsidiaries; Toyota Fleet Leasing Co. Ltd and Toyota Tokyo Rental & Leasing Co., Ltd into one new entity, Toyota Mobility Service Co., starting April 1, 2018.

The creation of the new company is to provide new mobility services in anticipation for the increasing demand of such services. 

In its announcement, Toyota was aware of customers’ diversifying needs, which not only includes conventional vehicle ownership, but also the growing need for shared utilisation via as car sharing, in which people use things only whenever the service is needed. 

Ultimately, Toyota’s goal is to become “the leading company of a mobility society” by developing and offering mobility services geared for a connected society. 

“Many corporations operating across Japan are based in Tokyo, where the earliest expansion of the mobility service society is expected to occur,” the release said.

“Consequently, Toyota plans to establish the new company there in order to quickly and flexibly respond to changing uses and needs for cars in this once-in-a-century revolutionary period in the automobile industry.”

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Toyota’s going electric by 2025

Toyota Motor corporation announced on Monday that by 2025 every model in their lineup will have an “electrified” option, meaning it will no longer develop vehicles that have solely engine-only powertrains.

The statement commits Toyota to a goal of selling more than 5.5 million electrified vehicles a year by 2030. It currently sells about 10 million vehicles a year worldwide.

Within those 5.5 million electrified vehicles a year by 2030, the company says there will be 1 million zero-emission vehicles.

The Toyota Mirai is a hydrogen fuel cell vehicle, one of the first such vehicles to be sold commercially.

Electrification across the Toyota and Lexus fleet

  • By around 2030, Toyota aims to have sales of more than 5.5 million electrified vehicles, including more than 1 million zero-emission vehicles. 
  • Additionally, by around 2025, every model in the Toyota and Lexus line-up around the world will be available either as a dedicated electrified model or have an electrified option. 

Zero-emission Vehicles

  • Toyota will accelerate the popularisation of battery electric vehicles with more than ten of these models to be available worldwide by the early 2020s.
  • A fuel-cell EV line-up will be expanded for both passenger and commercial vehicles in the 2020s.
  • In October 2015, Toyota launched the Toyota Environmental Challenge 2050, which aims to reduce the negative impact of manufacturing and driving vehicles as much as possible and contribute to realising a sustainable society. 

Hybrid Electric and Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicles

  • The hybrid electric vehicle line-up will also grow, thanks to the further development of the Toyota Hybrid System II (featured in the current-generation Prius and other models); the introduction of a more powerful version in some models; and the development of simpler hybrid systems in select models, as appropriate, to meet various customer needs.
  • Toyota also aims to expand its plug-in hybrig line-up in the 2020s.

Panasonic’s New Automotive Lithium-ion Battery Factory in China.

Current limitations with battery technology are also being addressed, with Toyota now developing next-generation solid state batteries which it aims to commercialise by the early 2020s. Partnering with Panasonic, Toyota will also start a feasibility study into a creation of a joint automotive prismatic battery business. 

“The auto industry faces many hurdles to developing next-generation batteries which are difficult for automakers or battery makers to tackle on their own,” Toyota President Akio Toyoda said at a joint news conference last week.

“It would be difficult for us to meet our 2030 goals given the current pace of battery development. That’s why we’re looking to Panasonic and other companies to help us develop ever-better cars and batteries.”

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‘World’s greenest car company’ announced

Toyota has been rated the ‘world’s greenest carmaker‘ and ranked 16th amongst the 500 largest publicly traded companies in the world. 

Companies are rated against their industry rivals on a number of criteria, including energy consumption, water usage and waste levels. 

The award recognises Toyota for its track record of sustainability achievements and for its eco-sensitive hybrid and fuel cell vehicles, and places the world’s largest automaker ahead of such respected companies as Apple, Starbucks and Nike. 

The Toyota Mirai is a hydrogen fuel cell vehicle, one of the first such vehicles to be sold commercially.

Initiatives by the world’s largest automaker have helped save 350 million litres of water and reduced energy use by 22 per cent in their North American manufacturing plants. Toyota Financial Services was also the first in the industry to use an Asset-Backed Green Bond to finance the purchase of nearly 40,000 green vehicles.

“Globally, Toyota has demonstrated its leadership in sustainable mobility through its commitment to developing and improving existing and alternative vehicle technologies that reduce the impact on the environment,” said Sean Hanley, senior divisional manager for sales and marketing, Toyota Australia.

“The environment has been at the heart of everything we do at Toyota since our very beginning.  The launch of our Environmental Challenge 2050 in 2015 reinforced the key areas in which we are reducing our impact on the environment throughout the entire lifecycle of our products. This recognition from Newsweek proves that the sustainable strategy that we at Toyota have adopted is paying dividends,” added Dr. Johan van Zyl, President and CEO of Toyota Motor Europe.

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Toyota and Panasonic to partner

Toyota and Panasonic are partnering in a feasibility of study to develop battery technology for electric cars, or a “joint automotive prismatic battery business.”

The move by the Japanese car maker signals not only a deeper push into battery development but an encroachment on to rival Tesla’s territory. 

The joint announcement on Wednesday builds on an existing agreement under which Panasonic, a global market leader for lithium-ion batteries, develops and builds batteries for Toyota’s petrol-electric and plug-in hybrid vehicles.

Akio Toyoda, Toyota’s president, and Kazuhiro Tsuga, his counterpart at Panasonic, announced the companies would look at joining forces to speed up commercialisation of next-generation battery technologies.

Signing of partnership agreement between Panasonic and Toyota – Toyota Newsroom

If Toyota succeeds in commercialising solid-state batteries then it would go a long way to securing Panasonic’s industry leading position. It is currently the main supplier of electric batteries to Tesla.

“The auto industry faces many hurdles to developing next-generation batteries which are difficult for automakers or battery makers to tackle on their own,” Toyota President Akio Toyoda said at a joint news conference.

Toyota President, Akio Toyoda – Toyota Newsroom

“It would be difficult for us to meet our 2030 goals given the current pace of battery development. That’s why we’re looking to Panasonic and other companies to help us develop ever-better cars and batteries.”

While Toyota continues to pursue hydrogen vehicles, the car maker is now focused on electric car pursuits after recognising that it was falling behind on the EV technology despite its early hybrid leadership with the Prius sedan.

The pair plan to expand development of prismatic batteries with higher energy density. Panasonic already makes prismatic batteries for Toyota, whereas for Tesla, it makes cylindrical batteries of a type similar to those used in laptops.

“Our cylindrical batteries are the most widely used batteries in pure EVs at the moment,” said Panasonic President Kazuhiro Tsuga.

“But when you look at the future, it’s difficult to gauge which format holds more demand potential.”

“We need to be able to develop new battery technologies in a prismatic format, and this would be difficult on our own.”

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