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Toyota CEO Koji Sato Falling Short on Transforming Automaker for an EV Future, Greening Supply Chain

WASHINGTON, D.C. — As Toyota Motor Corp.’s CEO Koji Sato nears the end of his first year in his role, a coalition of 54 consumer protection, health, and environmental groups representing more than 35 countries have demanded the company move quickly toward building fossil-free vehicles and eliminating human rights and environmental damages from its supply chain.

“The legacy of your first year as CEO of Toyota is marred by ramping up combustion engine vehicle production, the revelation of cheating on safety testing in Toyota subsidiaries, misleading marketing of gas-powered hybrids as electric vehicles, failing to decarbonize your aluminum and steel supply chains, and lobbying against climate policies globally,” the groups write in a letter to Sato.

The letter, whose signatories include Public Citizen, Labor Network for Sustainability, GreenLatinos, Sierra Club, and Latin American Association of Sustainable Mobility cites Toyota’s deceptive marketing of hybrids as electric vehicles. Public Citizen filed a complaint in December 2023 with the U.S. Federal Trade Commission asking it to investigate Toyota’s “Electrified Diversified” ad campaign, accusing it of misleading consumers. Outside the U.S., more than 2000 individuals have made similar complaints in 10 additional countries: Australia, Ireland, Germany, Switzerland, Netherlands, Austria, Cyprus, Belgium, France, and Spain.

“From a supply chain rife with carbon-intensive materials and serious human rights risks, to a lineup of cars that overwhelmingly run on fossil fuels, Toyota is woefully unprepared for a just transition to fossil-free vehicles with safer supply chains,” said East Peterson-Trujillo, senior clean vehicles campaigner with Public Citizen’s Climate Program. “New leadership at Toyota could have meant a commitment to a zero-emission future, but instead CEO Koji Sato has followed in the footsteps of Chairman Akio Toyoda’s myopic leadership of the auto giant.”

Additional signers provided the following quotes:

“Toyota continues to be the industry laggard – from electrification to ensuring a truly sustainable supply chain,” said Katherine García, director of the Sierra Club’s Clean Transportation for All Campaign. “We had high hopes that Mr. Koji Sato’s new leadership would bring positive change to the company, but unfortunately his first year has just further cemented Toyota’s reputation as a company intent on stalling EV strategy. Lobbying against EV policies and characterizing combustion vehicles as ‘electrified’ is unacceptable. Toyota executives can expect to see continued pressure from Sierra Club until they make real progress.”

“Toyota is one of the clear laggards of the auto industry when it comes to building clean and equitable supply chains that are free from fossil-fuels and human rights abuses. In this year’s edition of the Lead the Charge Leaderboard, the company experienced the largest drop in the rankings out of all the automakers evaluated and was also the only company not to make any improvement to their score on fossil-free and environmentally sustainable supply chains. Toyota must do better if it wants to ensure that its supply chains are fit for the future,” said Chris Alford, senior strategist on Auto Supply Chains with The Sunrise Project.

“The electric vehicle transition offers a unique opportunity to answer the demands of both the worker and climate justice movements. And we know that auto manufacturers, like Toyota, have been reaping record profits while failing to provide living wages to their workers,” said Erica Smiley, Jobs With Justice Executive Director. “It’s time for Toyota to prioritize both workers and the environment by meeting climate and labor demands. A cleaner energy future can and must ensure thriving careers for workers. Jobs With Justice stands in solidarity with auto workers!”

“Toyota needs to be all in on building fossil-free vehicles that will reduce pollution harms to communities at every step along the way, from materials supply chains to the efficacy of cars being driven off the lot. The time is now; we call on Toyota to use their considerable technological capacity and capital power to invest in a cleaner car future,” said Andrea Marpillero-Colomina, sustainable communities program director at GreenLatinos.

“We are advancing in Costa Rica and Latin America to accelerate the entry of zero-emission vehicles and it is essential that automakers, such as Toyota, send the best offer to our region and develop their electric models as soon as possible,” said Silvia Rojas, executive director of ASOMOVE Costa Rica.

“The transport sector is one of the largest emitters of CO2 worldwide. If we want to achieve the goals of the Paris Climate Agreement, the automotive industry must switch to fossil-free mobility as quickly as possible. Toyota is an absolute laggard here and must act urgently and not remain on the side of the delayers!” said Doris Holler-Bruckner, president of the Federal Association Sustainable Mobility in Austria. “This brings advantages for everyone.”

“From misleading consumers to obstructing climate action on cleaner cars and clinging to polluting fuels – if Toyota was a person behind the wheels of a vehicle, it would be guilty of dangerous driving,” said Andrew Simms, director of the New Weather Institute and assistant director of Scientists for Global Responsibility. “It is bad enough that the UK’s official advertising regulator found Toyota guilty of being socially irresponsible regarding the environment in its marketing, but actively delaying the urgently needed transition to clean transport means more lives will be lost due to air pollution and the impacts of global heating. Toyota is driving down a dead-end, it needs to change gear and make a U-turn now on climate inaction.”

“The move to electric vehicles is an important part of the global transition away from fossil fuels, but the transition cannot be built on rights abuses and environmentally harmful practices,” said Krista Shennum, researcher at Climate Rights International. “Global automakers, including Toyota, should ensure that their electric vehicle supply chains are fossil-fuel free and do not drive human rights and environmental abuses.”