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With a New CEO, Toyota at an EV Crossroads

WASHINGTON, D.C. — As Koji Sato prepares to take over as the next CEO of Toyota Motor Corporation, 54 advocacy organizations from around the world today called on the automaker to commit to phase out all internal combustion engine vehicles in coming years. 

The letter, whose signatories include Public Citizen, Center for Biological Diversity, Electric Vehicle Association, GreenLatinos, Greenpeace Japan, Sierra Club, and members of the Latin American Association for Sustainable Mobility, called on the automaker to shift to building solely EVs in the U.S. and Europe by 2030 and globally by 2035. 

“As incoming CEO, you have the opportunity to change course on decades of harm and deceit caused by Toyota and lead the industry toward its electric future,” the letter reads. “With no tailpipe emissions, electric vehicles are better for our health and essential to keeping our planet livable.”

Under the current CEO Akio Toyoda, the company’s environmental strategy revolved around  lobbying to delay electric vehicle (EV) adoption and fighting for weaker fuel efficiency standards set forth by the Trump administration. The company’s efforts earned it the worst ranking among automakers on climate policy for two years in a row.

“As Mr. Sato takes over Toyota, he has an opportunity to reimagine the future of global transportation,” said East Peterson-Trujillo, clean vehicles campaigner with Public Citizen. “Committing to a rapid transition toward EVs must be central to his plans. Toyota is not only a laggard in EV production, but the company has actively fought measures to make EVs more available and affordable. Mr. Sato should reverse course and lead Toyota into a zero-emission vehicle future.”

In addition to calling for a complete transition to EVs, last week, Public Citizen launched a campaign to push Toyota to build out a greener, more equitable supply chain for its vehicles. 

In the letter, the groups call on the automaker to: 

  • phase out internal combustion engine vehicles (including hybrids and plug-in hybrids) in the U.S. and Europe by 2030 and globally by 2035;
  • align advocacy and lobbying with the goal of phasing out internal combustion engines, and be a voice for 100% renewable energy economy-wide;
  • require 100% renewable energy use throughout its supply chains globally by 2035;
  • by 2025, sign a procurement commitment for fossil-free primary steel and commit to source 100% fossil-free steel by 2050;
  • require responsible sourcing of its battery minerals, and develop battery design that allows for easy reuse and recycling of minerals;
  • establish a clear commitment to Indigenous Peoples’ right to Free, Prior and Informed Consent, which should be extended to your suppliers.

Sato is set to take over the company on April 1, 2023. 

Additional signers provided the following quotes:

“The transition to electric vehicles is a unique opportunity to reimagine the auto supply chain that Toyota should not miss. As a key buyer of premium steel, automakers like Toyota can play an outsized role in pushing the steel industry to reduce pollution and invest in clean production,” said Hilary Lewis, Steel Director, Industrious Labs.

“Latin America is a region that is ready for zero emission mobility, it is essential that vehicle suppliers such as Toyota commit to producing 100% electric vehicles, to accelerate technological change and allow people to have greater options in the market,” said Silvia Rojas, executive director of the Costa Rican Association of Electric Mobility and president of the Latin American Association of Sustainable Mobility.

“As the world grapples with the climate crisis, it is imperative for our planet’s future that the automotive sector fully embraces the transition to electric transport. Toyota was once recognized as a pioneer in eco-friendly technologies and promoting environmentally responsible practices; it must become a champion of electric transport if it is to reclaim its position as a leader in this critical area,” said Ben Nelmes, Chief Executive Officer at New AutoMotive.

“The IPCC says only swift and drastic action can avert irrevocable damage to Earth. Is Koji Sato ready for his new job?” — Yohanna Briscoe, Acting Executive Director, Ekō  

“Currently, electromobility has become a key topic in the world of transportation. It is crucial for Toyota to accelerate and implement electromobility in Latin America, a region that still has great potential for growth in this field. They have the necessary experience and technology to lead this transition in the region, and the implementation of electromobility can have a positive impact on the economy and employment in Latin American countries,” said Rodrigo Salcedo Campino, Vice President of the Chilean Electric Vehicle Association (AVEC).

“Mr. Sato is inheriting a legacy of reluctance to manufacture electric vehicles, at a time when the US and many countries are moving towards widespread adoption. If and when he chooses to improve Toyota’s laggard position – on producing EVs, making them affordable, and cleaning up the supply chain – will mark how the brand is viewed for decades to come. Twenty years down the road, will we know Toyota as a company that resisted change, or a leader in clean cars? The choice is his, and we’ll continue our work pressuring the company to make the right one.” – Katherine García, Sierra Club Clean Transportation for All Director

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