Things are getting heated Down Under as a Toyota executive’s recent anti-EV comments in Australia are being challenged by industry leaders, including Tesla. According to the Electric Vehicle Council of Australia, the comments come as the automaker is losing market share over its own hesitancy to go electric.
Toyota has been the most vocal automaker about going all-in on electric vehicles from the beginning.
Japan’s largest automaker consistently lobbied against stricter emissions rules under Akio Toyoda’s leadership.
Although the long-time leader stepped down in January, the automaker’s anti-EV efforts continue. Toyota’s VP of sales, marketing, and franchise operations in Australia told journalists last week, “Right now, hybrid-electric vehicles are a better fit than BEVs for most consumers.”
Hanley continued Toyota’s anti-EV agenda, instead pushing hybrids, a segment the automaker has long dominated.
Toyota’s sales leader added, “BEVs make sense right now in places like Norway where most energy is renewable, and incomes are high,” adding, “But Australia is not Europe.”
The Japanese automaker accounted for nearly 90% of hybrid sales in the nation last year. Meanwhile, Australia’s pure EV sales are finally heating up.
Despite a slow start, accounting for only 3.8% of overall car sales last year, Australians are buying electric cars.
EV sales are up 80% in 2023, now accounting for 7.3% of the overall new vehicle market. Over 65,000 Australian drivers took home a purely electric car thanks to new affordable models like the BYD Atto 3 and Tesla’s Model Y.
Tesla’s VP of public policy, Rohan Patel, took to social media to set the record straight. Patel explained that “Mr Hanley is obviously not much of an expert on the Australian electricity grid or the speed of the transition.”
Pointing to Australia’s transition to renewables, Patel said thousands of Aussies are already running their EVs on 100% clean electricity from the sun.
Renewables accounted for 8% of Australia’s electricity use in 2009. Today, that number is around 32%. The country plans to increase the share of renewable energy to 82% by 2030.
Although Australia imports roughly 90% of its oil, it’s one of the fastest-growing renewable energy producers.
Patel said it’s a “no-brainer” for the Australian government and people to move faster toward EVs. He added they are “too smart than to be tricked by cynical PR that aims to slow the sustainable transportation transition to help sell internal combustion vehicles in the short term.”
CEO of the EV Council of Australia, Behyad Jafari, agreed with Patel. He said the comments “go against what’s in the best interest of both Australian consumers looking to save on fuel bills and Australia’s economy.”
Jafari explained that Hanley was “talking down the battery industry when we’re the ones who can supply the world with EV batteries.” He added:
This is an attempt by them to try to defend their own failings rather than admitting, as they have at a global level, they got it wrong and they’ve been too slow off the market with EVs.
Although Toyota remained the largest automaker in the country, its lead is slipping. The automaker sold 21,000 fewer vehicles this year, while Tesla sold nearly 24,00 more (via TheDriven.io).
To prove it, Tesla’s Model Y was the best-selling SUV (gas or electric) through September in Australia. The Model Y topped the Toyota RAV4, Ford Ranger, and Mazda CX-5 on the sales charts.
As Patel and Jafari pointed out, Australia has a massive opportunity to capitalize on the growing demand for EVs.
Australia has one of the largest lithium reserves, accounting for over 50% of the world’s supply.
Toyota’s comments are nothing new. Hanley said he would “lobby for a standard with a generous time frame that will cut pollution without cutting vehicle options” earlier this year.
The Japanese automaker has long lobbied against all-electric vehicles because it’s not Toyota’s forte. Hybrids are.
Toyota has relied on its hybrid technology, neglecting to invest in pure EVs early. The company’s first global EV, the bZ4X electric SUV, had several issues, leading to a slow rollout.
Since then, Toyota has announced a series of innovations, including new battery tech, production methods, and design, to improve the efficiency and cost of future EV models.
Meanwhile, Toyota has sold 76,457 battery electric vehicles through September, a measly 1% of its over 7.5 million total sales.
Toyota is known for its empty promises regarding EVs and battery tech, so we will see how much it comes to market.
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