Manufacturing News

Toyota plots return to EVs, this time across Asia

Toyota Motor Corp. will introduce electric vehicles in China and India starting in 2020 as it accelerates a push into battery-powered autos amid rapidly tightening environmental regulations.

The automaker will design its own electric car to sell in China, and also might sell EVs developed by its Chinese partners under the Toyota marque, the company’s head of China operations, Hiroji Onishi, said Friday during the Guangzhou auto show.

Selling EVs will mark the return of Toyota into the battery-powered market after halting production of the RAV4 EV in 2014.

In September, Toyota President Akio Toyoda said the company is “a little bit late” marketing EVs, even as rival automakers rush into the segment. In 2019, China will introduce a carbon cap-and-trade policy that includes EV quotas.

“To respond comprehensively to the expanding demand for EVs in China, we are considering having our joint-venture partners provide us with EVs,” Onishi said. “We also will continue to develop every aspect of what China defines as new-energy vehicles, including plug-in hybrids and fuel-cell vehicles.”

To qualify for points under the Chinese proposal, vehicles must be produced locally. A Toyota spokeswoman declined to indicate where the company’s EV assembly plant would be located.

Toyota said it will expand a feasibility study for selling its fuel-cell-powered Mirai sedan in China to include commercial vehicles like buses. The company also will introduce a pair of compact crossovers, the C-HR and IZOA, in China next summer.

The addition of two crossovers should give Toyota a boost in China, where it trails Japanese peers Nissan Motor Co. and Honda.

Nissan had been the leading Japanese brand in China since 2009, but Honda caught up this year on strong demand for the Honda XR-V and Vezel small crossovers.

Like other foreign automakers in China, Toyota provides slightly different versions of the same vehicle to its local joint-venture partners to ensure they are equally supplied with the most popular models.

The C-HR will be sold by Toyota’s joint venture with Guangzhou Automobile Group, while the IZOA will be marketed by Toyota’s partnership with China FAW Group.

Toyota introduced the C-HR in Japan and Europe last year, and in the United States in April.

In the first 10 months of this year, Toyota’s China sales totaled 1.07 million vehicles, compared with Honda’s 1.16 million units and Nissan’s 1.17 million.

On Friday, Nissan raised its Chinese sales target for the year to 1.5 million vehicles.

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