Toyota boss Akio Toyoda to lead the charge on EV development

Toyota boss Akio Toyoda to lead the charge on EV development

Toyota may have pioneered the mass production of hybrid vehicles, but its move into next-generation power has been a less than direct process.

To date, the Japanese giant has focused its post-hybrid efforts on a plug-in hybrid EV version of the Prius and the ‘other’ future alternative energy: hydrogen.

But, with battery electric vehicles quickly becoming a standard of the future, hydrogen – although far from out of contention – may become the Beta to battery electric’s VHS.

Perhaps in recognition of that possibility, Toyota is now hedging its bets. While it peddles the unfortunately styled but technologically advanced Mirai hydrogen fuel-cell car in some markets (not ours), the company has announced it will begin developing battery electric vehicles.

So serious is its commitment to not being (potentially) left behind, the company’s outspoken and passionate president, Akio Toyoda, will spearhead the project.

Toyoda, a motorsport obsessive (pictured above with the company’s new WRC challenger) and grandson of company founder Kiichiro Toyoda, has led the car maker since 2009.

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Until now, his focus has been on reviving the emotional connection between Toyota buyers and their cars, having directly driven the production push of the 86 coupe and more recently the mighty-looking Lexus LC.

The company is making no effort to hide its strategy, either.

“By putting the president and vice presidents in charge of the department, we plan to speed up development of electric cars,” a Toyota spokesperson said this week during an announcement of personnel changes.

“The president will directly oversee the department’s operations to enable decisions to be made quickly and nimbly.”

Apart from leading the larger aspects of the entire Toyota company, Toyoda will lead a dedicated unit charged with planning and developing market-ready electric vehicles.

Toyota may be behind the eight-ball on electric vehicles – with Japan’s number-two car maker Nissan already well advanced in the technology – but, as the industry’s largest player, and with Toyoda’s passion behind the project, we could quickly see Toyota become a leader in the electrification segment.

What this will mean for its hydrogen focus, long term, remains to be seen.

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