Sounds an Awful Lot Like Free Market Capitalism: Akio Toyoda Says Toyota Will Build the Vehicles People Want

Earlier this month, Toyota board chairman Takeshi Uchiyamada told CNBC that the company was “skeptical there would be a rapid shift to pure electric vehicles, given questions over user convenience.”

It shouldn’t be perceived as a revolutionary thought. But with automakers increasingly touting their plans for “electrification” — a word too many observers have interpreted incorrectly — and regulators increasingly promoting their plans to do away with internal combustion engines, Uchiyamada’s honesty regarding the limitations of electric vehicles flew in the face of advanced automotive thought.

It did not, however, fly in the face of conventional Toyota thought. According to Reuters, the president of Toyota Motor Corporation, Akio Toyoda, says, “EVs are in focus at the moment but customers and the market will ultimately decide which powertrains will be successful.”

You’d almost think Akio Toyoda was — crazy as this may sound — running a business.

Toyota, reports Reuters, will forge ahead with plans to build “a variety of vehicle types.” That doesn’t just mean sedans, hatchbacks, pickup trucks, SUVs, crossovers, and vans. Toyota is referring to different methods for powering vehicles.

Toyoda acknowledges that his company was “a bit late to the game” when it comes to EVs, but that’s hardly the reason the global automotive behemoth continues to believe in a diversified portfolio. (In the United States, Toyota currently sells a broad array of hybrids, a plug-in hybrid, the hydrogen fuel cell Mirai, and a wide variety of ICE vehicles.)

No, Toyota simply wants to offer customers the vehicles customers want. Of the 1,604,847 vehicles sold by Toyota and Lexus in the United States during the first eight months of 2017, roughly one out of every thousand was a Mirai. Fewer than 5 percent were members of the Prius family, down from nearly 6 percent in 2016, more than 7 percent in 2015, and nearly 9 percent in 2014. Other non-Prius Toyota and Lexus hybrids account for slightly more than 4 percent of the automaker’s year-to-date U.S. volume.

On the other hand, the Tacoma and Tundra pickup trucks, along with five body-on-frame SUVs, account for one-fifth of Toyota’s overall U.S. volume.

Since 2013, U.S. EV market share has increased from 0.3 percent to 0.5 percent, less of a market share improvement than Ford has managed with the F-Series truck lineup.

[Images: Toyota]

Timothy Cain is a contributing analyst at The Truth About Cars and Autofocus.ca and the founder and former editor of GoodCarBadCar.net. Follow on Twitter @timcaincars and Instagram.

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