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Exclusive: Following pressure from the Toyota boss, Japan emphasized support for hybrids

TOKYO, June 24 (Reuters) – Toyota Motor Corps (7203.T) chief lobbied the Japanese government to make it clear that they supported hybrid cars as much as battery electric or are facing losing support from the automotive industry, a senior lawmaker told a meeting of the ruling party.

The lobbying of Akio Toyoda, president of Toyota and chairman of the industry group Japan Automobile Manufacturers Association (JAMA), comes as the carmaker has faced increased scrutiny from green investors who say it has been slow to embrace battery-powered vehicles and pressured governments to slow their transition . read more

Akira Amari, a former industry minister and a veteran member of the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), called for changes to the government’s annual economic policy roadmap at a June 3 meeting, saying he had spoken to Toyoda a day earlier, according to notes and audio. of the meeting reviewed by Reuters.

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The final version of the document included a reference to “so-called electric vehicles” and appeared to equate hybrids burning fossil fuels with zero-emission battery vehicles, although environmentalists say there is a huge difference.

“I spoke to chairman Toyoda yesterday and he said that JAMA can not support a government that rejects hybrids,” Amari told a political meeting with LDP lawmakers, according to the notes and the audio.

The use of synthetic fuels, for example from hydrogen, will make hybrids “100% clean energy” cars, and the policy document should make it explicit, Amari said.

“If we do not make it clear, JAMA will push back with all its might,” Amari said, according to the notes and sound.

“If we do not say that hybrids are included in the category of electric vehicles, it will not look good,” he said, adding that a reference to electric vehicles should be changed to “so-called electric vehicles”.

Amari confirmed to Reuters that he asked to include “so-called” to make it clear that electric vehicles were not limited to battery-powered vehicles and included hybrids. He said he did not ask for other changes.

He confirmed that he had spoken to Toyoda.

“What Mr. Toyoda is trying to say is that hybrids that run on synthetic fuel are good for the environment because they are extremely fuel efficient. He said he would be extremely dissatisfied if hybrids were rejected. That was what he told me. He asked about LDP. rejected hybrids and I said we did not do such a thing. “

Amari told Reuters that by developing synthetic fuel, carmakers would be able to produce zero-emission internal combustion engines. Such fuels can also be used in aircraft, which can not run on battery, he said.

In a statement to Reuters, JAMA said that the car industry did everything to achieve the goal of becoming carbon neutral by 2050. Since the goal was carbon neutrality, it was important to expand the options and not be limited to specific technologies, it says.

It was also necessary to respond to different situations and customer needs in each country and region, it says.

A Toyota spokesman referred Reuters to JAMA.


The final version of the document, available online, refers to Japan’s 2035 target that all sales of new domestic cars should be “so-called electric vehicles”, and specifically mentions in the main text that such vehicles include hybrids.

An earlier draft from 31 May, also available online, shows the reference to hybrids in a footnote only. The main text refers to the 2035 goal as that all sales of new cars must be “electrically powered vehicles”.

The annual policy document is of great importance to the government and serves as a framework for its future policy.

Toyota, the world’s largest carmaker after sales, has said that fossil fuels, not internal combustion engines, are the problem. In addition to the hybrids it popularized more than two decades ago with the Prius, it is also a champion of hydrogen technology, although so far it has not caught up with the way battery-electric cars have done.

Hybrids, including plug-in hybrids, accounted for nearly 44% of new passenger cars sold in Japan last year, while battery-powered vehicles accounted for less than 1%, according to data from the Japan Automobile Dealers Association.

It does not include minivans, trucks or buses.

The energy and climate think tank InfluenceMap has rated Toyota as the worst of major carmakers for its climate policy lobbying, which includes public statements and government interactions.

It has been criticized by its own investors, including pension funds, for lobbying. Danske AkademikerPension has sold down most of its stake in Toyota in the past year.

Last year, Toyota committed 8 trillion yen ($ 60 billion) to electrify its cars by 2030, half of which is intended to develop electric battery vehicles. Nevertheless, it expects annual sales of such cars to reach only 3.5 million cars by the end of the decade, or around a third of current sales.

On Thursday, Toyota said it recalled more than 2,000 of its first mass-produced electric vehicle, the bZ4X SUV, less than two months after the vehicle was rolled out, due to a risk that the wheel could come loose. read more

It says that hybrids make sense in markets where the infrastructure is not ready to support a faster transition to battery-powered vehicles, and that customers should have more choices for cleaner technology.

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Reporting by Makiko Yamazaki; Additional reporting by Nobuhiro Kubo, Maki Shiraki and Kaori Kaneko; Edited by David Dolan and Kim Coghill

Our standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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