TOKYO, April 7 (Reuters) – Toyota Motor Corp. (7203.T) will introduce 10 new battery-powered models and target sales of 1.5 million electric vehicles annually by 2026, aiming for sharp growth in a long-suffering market. rivals.
The world’s largest automaker by sales will also create a new specialized unit to focus on next-generation electric vehicle batteries, senior executives said at a briefing on Friday.
Toyota, including its luxury brand Lexus, now has just three battery models on the market and last year sold fewer than 25,000 of those models worldwide.
Investors and environmental groups have criticized Toyota for its slow adoption of battery-powered cars, saying it has lost ground to Tesla Inc (TSLA.O) and other companies that have caught up to rapidly growing demand.
The Japanese automaker responded that electric vehicles are just one option for customers and that petrol-electric hybrids like the flagship Prius are a more realistic option for certain markets and drivers.
“In the next few years we will expand our lineup in the important battery electric category,” CEO Koji Sato said at the press conference, his first in the top job, but added that hybrid vehicles will remain an important pillar.
Electric vehicles are now expected to account for more than half of all vehicle production worldwide by 2030.
Meeting that demand will be critical for Toyota, which has also said it will increase production in the United States, where growth in electric vehicles is outpacing that of the overall market.
Toyota’s goal to sell 1.5 million BEVs annually in 2026 was 25% higher than the 1.2 million battery-powered units it was expected to sell by then, according to S&P Global Mobility forecasts compiled ahead of Friday’s announcement.
“There is a gap of 300,000 units so that can be considered a difference of about a year,” said Yoshiaki Kawano, associate director at S&P Global Mobility.
“It doesn’t seem impossible at all,” he said, adding that the outcome would still depend on which models Toyota introduced.
Toyota reported that US sales fell about 9% during the first quarter. By contrast, General Motors (GM.N) saw an 18% increase, supported by increased demand for electric vehicles from fleets and commercial customers.
Data from S&P Global Mobility in November showed that U.S. consumers switching to electric vehicles are largely doing so from Toyota and Honda Motor Co (7267.T).
“Now that it’s time to take the next big innovation leap, Toyota is falling behind and more and more people in the United States are starting to understand that,” East Peterson Trujillo, a clean-car activist with the nonprofit Public Citizen, said in an interview before the briefing.
(Reporting by Daniel Lusink and Maki Shiraki) Editing by Edwina Gibbs and Clarence Fernandez
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