By on September 19, 2017

2017 Toyota Tacoma 4Runner Tundra TRD - Image: ToyotaEarlier this month, Toyota board chairman Takeshi Uchiyamada told CNBC that the company was “skeptical there would be a rapid shift to pure electric vehicles, given questions over user convenience.”

It shouldn’t be perceived as a revolutionary thought. But with automakers increasingly touting their plans for “electrification” — a word too many observers have interpreted incorrectly — and regulators increasingly promoting their plans to do away with internal combustion engines, Uchiyamada’s honesty regarding the limitations of electric vehicles flew in the face of advanced automotive thought.

It did not, however, fly in the face of conventional Toyota thought. According to Reuters, the president of Toyota Motor Corporation, Akio Toyoda, says, “EVs are in focus at the moment but customers and the market will ultimately decide which powertrains will be successful.”

You’d almost think Akio Toyoda was — crazy as this may sound — running a business.

2016 Toyota RAV4 Hybrid - Image: ToyotaToyota, reports Reuters, will forge ahead with plans to build “a variety of vehicle types.” That doesn’t just mean sedans, hatchbacks, pickup trucks, SUVs, crossovers, and vans. Toyota is referring to different methods for powering vehicles.

Toyoda acknowledges that his company was “a bit late to the game” when it comes to EVs, but that’s hardly the reason the global automotive behemoth continues to believe in a diversified portfolio. (In the United States, Toyota currently sells a broad array of hybrids, a plug-in hybrid, the hydrogen fuel cell Mirai, and a wide variety of ICE vehicles.)

No, Toyota simply wants to offer customers the vehicles customers want. Of the 1,604,847 vehicles sold by Toyota and Lexus in the United States during the first eight months of 2017, roughly one out of every thousand was a Mirai. Fewer than 5 percent were members of the Prius family, down from nearly 6 percent in 2016, more than 7 percent in 2015, and nearly 9 percent in 2014. Other non-Prius Toyota and Lexus hybrids account for slightly more than 4 percent of the automaker’s year-to-date U.S. volume.

On the other hand, the Tacoma and Tundra pickup trucks, along with five body-on-frame SUVs, account for one-fifth of Toyota’s overall U.S. volume.

Since 2013, U.S. EV market share has increased from 0.3 percent to 0.5 percent, less of a market share improvement than Ford has managed with the F-Series truck lineup.

[Images: Toyota]

Timothy Cain is a contributing analyst at The Truth About Cars and Autofocus.ca and the founder and former editor of GoodCarBadCar.net. Follow on Twitter @timcaincars and Instagram.

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66 Comments on “Sounds an Awful Lot Like Free Market Capitalism: Akio Toyoda Says Toyota Will Build the Vehicles People Want...”


  • avatar
    tylanner

    How well manufacturers transition towards electrification will ultimately determine who survives and who doesn’t….But it’s clear that a significant portion of the planet will not be refreshed with a charging/battery infrastructure anytime soon. Given that, it is wise for existing companies to leverage both sides of this market.

    No one with any credibility/impartiality is predicting the imminent death of the ICE…there are way too many natural market forces that will help sustain a healthy ICE production and allow it a slow death by natural causes…but ignoring EVs completely would be free market suicide…

  • avatar
    Vulpine

    They may be doing a fair job of it but so far they’re not building ANYTHING I want. The cars are ugly, the trucks are too big AND ugly… quite literally I don’t like anything I’ve seen from Toyota/Lexus in the last 10 years.

  • avatar
    threeer

    Toyota will build the vehicles people want…that Toyota (or insert other car company here) offers. It’s a subtle distinction, but one I think merits consideration. I think sometimes there are circular arguments between the consumer, manufacturer and dealer revolving around what sells and what consumers want. “We only sold five brown, manual wagons, so folks must not want brown, manual wagons.” Never mind they only MADE five brown, manual wagons. That said though, I do agree that some of the buzz (had to do it!) around “electrification” is definitely manufacturer (and to an extent, government) driven. If the consumer demands them is yet to be seen…unless that’s all the manufacturer offers.

    • 0 avatar
      ACCvsBig10

      Give us an inline-6 and v8 4runner and tacos

      bring back the v6 rav4 and trd superchargers

      make a turbocharged corolla

    • 0 avatar
      sportyaccordy

      Eh, it goes further than that. Toyota as a manufacturer doesn’t have the final say in what ends up at a dealership; the dealerships do. And if those brown manual wagons sat on the lot for weeks, months, YEARS while crossovers and sedans moved in a matter of days, what do you think the dealer, who is losing money on cars that sit, is going to request for its allocations?

      Ultimately if Toyota doesn’t sell something, it’s probably because there aren’t enough people who want it to make it worth selling.

      And as someone who spent a week in France with a brown manual DIESEL wagon in France, I’m gonna say we’re not missing out on much. I haven’t driven a Focus hatch/sedan, but I imagine they drive exactly the same. And unless you are regularly carrying long/huge cargo, you’re not gonna miss the extra length of the wagon over the hatch; especially if the front passenger seat folds flat (as it did in my wife’s Rabbit, which was my favorite feature in it). I suppose the age old trick of increasing demand through denial still works, but that doesn’t make the denied product any good.

      • 0 avatar
        ash78

        Yeah, car dealers are more like crack dealers in a sense. They’ll sell whatever moves quickly, they won’t go for anything that requires actually “selling” or convincing or shifting consumer mindset. I can understand this completely…when I sold used cars in the early 2000s, most of my proselytizing (for wagons and crossovers during the SUV boom) fell on deaf ears. People want what they want.

        Side note: Yesterday I saw my neighbor getting dropped off by our local Ford dealer’s courtesy van, a brown Transit Connect Wagon (short wheelbase). It was the EXACT same van I test drove there 3 years ago and passed on — Ford just wanted too much cash for too little car, but it was a great package. But the dealership back then just complained how it sat on the lot for months and got no interest next to the much pricier Explorer. People also don’t want unique…they want common.

        • 0 avatar
          Vulpine

          “People also don’t want unique…they want common.”

          And then there’s me, who wants anything BUT common.

          • 0 avatar
            stuki

            People who can afford what they want, often want unique. Hence early success of Tesla as well as Prius. The latter less popular once no longer unique. Ditto every conceivable special edition and micro-niche trim level and option at the higher end of the Porsche catalog.

            With ever dwindling numbers of people able to afford what they want, momr and more instead curl up in a ball and play defense, “wanting” what they believe will have the best “resale value.” Often even involuntarily, as higher perceived resale value, can make a lease affordable. And predicting resale value is easier on things that are common, instead of unique.

        • 0 avatar
          sportyaccordy

          Exactly. People want what they want, not what you want. And the industry operating off of that idea is an indication that it works, not that it’s broken.

          • 0 avatar
            Vulpine

            Yeah. People. You have sheep; you have wolves and you have foxes (amongst other critters). The wolves tend to herd the sheep, telling them what they want. The foxes do what they want, taking advantage of wolves’ mistakes and sheep’s acceptances. The other critters will do as they will, even if it’s illegal.

      • 0 avatar
        Vulpine

        “Eh, it goes further than that. Toyota as a manufacturer doesn’t have the final say in what ends up at a dealership; the dealerships do. And if those brown manual wagons sat on the lot for weeks, months, YEARS while crossovers and sedans moved in a matter of days, what do you think the dealer, who is losing money on cars that sit, is going to request for its allocations?”

        —- This is exactly why cars have become so monochromatic and boring; dealerships should have only marginal say in what they’re given to market. I want choice in color and options that dealerships would rather ignore. Make the dealership work harder to market those “undesirables” because honestly I prefer color and choice. I’ve never bought a white, grey or silver car for myself and I’ve only purchased one black car in over 40 years of driving. The color I truly want is a nice burnt umber… essentially an orange-tinted brown that would work well with certain graphic appliqués I have in mind.

        • 0 avatar
          Hydromatic

          “The color I truly want is a nice burnt umber… essentially an orange-tinted brown that would work well with certain graphic appliqués I have in mind.”

          Then you can do that yourself by having the car repainted. It’s an expensive undertaking, but then you’ll get exactly what you want, how you want it. That goes back to stuki’s argument that those with the cash will gravitate towards that which is unique, while the rest of us budget-constrained schlubs will settle on homogeneous cars with good resale values.

          • 0 avatar
            Vulpine

            I’m not exactly rich you know; my retirement very probably works out to less than your paycheck. I clearly noted that I wanted a color, not that I’d get it. Graphics, on the other hand, can be quite affordable compared to a full-body paint job.

  • avatar
    ash78

    This is always tricky, since sometimes the manufacture can “invent” demand in spite of what the market is currently asking for. In other words, people don’t always know what they want (or need) and with the lead times on a new vehicle and powertrain, sometimes the builders have to take a stab.

    10-15 years ago I always made fun of people for wasting money on iPods. I mean, it’s not like they were all walking around with a Discman and a backpack full of CDs saying “Man, if only there was a better way!” No…Apple came up with something that changed the perception of what people “needed” and now it’s basically an entitlement at all strata of society to have a pocket full of music and internet for $80+ every month.

    Back to cars, I still believe that the correct execution of a plug-in hybrid will be the medium term winner. The charging infrastructure and speed is still growing, but the gasoline infrastructure is here now. Cars that can do you local driving on battery and your long drives on gas will probably be the best of both worlds for the next 30-50 years.

    • 0 avatar
      tekdemon

      Yeah, I think people are forgetting that when the automobile was first invented the market mostly demanded horses. But people then realized that the new innovation was actually better in many ways, especially as the new invention was developed and improved and also gradually became more affordable.

      I think a lot of the same will eventually apply to EVs, so far the only affordable EVs have had too much sacrifice in terms of power and range but the latest crop and especially the Model 3 now have legitimate reasons for people to pick them over their ICE competitors-the massive torque and instantaneous response from electric motors has convinced more than a few people to switch.

      I do think ICE motors will still have a purpose in less developed places where a steady supply of electricity isn’t a sure thing, but EVs will make up a large portion of the market shortly.Talking about 0.5% market share is pretty silly when the only affordable EVs literally just launched and the model that’s likely to be the best selling EV to date isn’t even available to the general public yet.

      • 0 avatar
        jjster6

        @ tekdemon,

        But in less developed countries they might not have a reliable supply of gas/diesel. Electricity you can make on your own with a windmill/solar cells (I realize one little windmill or solar cell ain’t gonna cut it). But arguably generating electricity is easier than refining fuel.

  • avatar
    dividebytube

    The only Toyotas I like are their BOF SUVs and trucks – seem ready to go offroad with minimal modification. I loved my slow ‘n’ steady T100 4X4. I’m no mega offroader but the truck seemed already lifted from the factory, especially once I removed the step bars.

    Though a Lexus IS / GS / LS or even an ES would work for family hauling. A V6 Camry for sleeper driving but I just find ’em too bland. But I’m not a fan of the current Toyota/Lexus origami styling.

    • 0 avatar
      ash78

      My friends just returned from a year in Uganda. They bought a Prado and a Hilux for about $6k each, then sold them for about the same before coming home.

      They said apart from suspension replacements*, everything on Toyotas does amazingly well on third-world environments.

      (*most shops there will recommend a new suspension every time you get new tires…if not sooner.)

      • 0 avatar
        gtemnykh

        When I was in Mexico for work, one of the cabbies told me the Nissan Tsuru cabs typically go through tires every 9 months and shocks annually. The cobblestone streets in downtown Puerto Vallarta are brutal.

  • avatar
    tonyd

    People might want these.

    Corrola 55 mpg combined 170 combined hp < 9sec 0 to 60

    Corrola wagon(IM) 55 mpg combined 170 combined hp < 9sec 0 to 60

    Camry 50 mpg combined 200 combined hp < 9sec 0 to 60

    prius 60 mpg combined 150 combined hp < 10 sec 0 to 60

    That includes all trims. Are they hybrids? People will not care so just remove all the hybrid badging. Then match the equivalent honda/ford/kia trim prices.

  • avatar
    ToddAtlasF1

    With the demise of Honda’s K-series offerings, Toyota builds the only keeper cars on the market. They’re going to continue to shed many of their least knowledgeable customers through their pragmatism, but the absence of choices for people who value their time and money will sustain them.

  • avatar
    28-Cars-Later

    Mr. Uchiyamada must be burned at the stake by for speaking too much truth. The Green Family will not tolerate such heresy.

    He’s got the stink of oil and electrical circuitry about him.

  • avatar
    VW4motion

    To start, toyoder should build a full size pickup without a twerking back end that doesn’t get 12 mpg. Something over 20 mpg combined would be nice and a stable frame.

    • 0 avatar
      Mandalorian

      Tundra is a great truck mechanically and has the best powertrain in the business, but its really long overdue for an update. The domestics and new Titan have features the Tundra doesn’t.

      • 0 avatar
        PrincipalDan

        @Mandalorian +1

        Tundra is long in the tooth and could we have a Sequoia that doesn’t look like it needs gastric bypass surgery or an epi-pen injection to bring the swelling down?

    • 0 avatar
      Vulpine

      “To start, toyoder should build a full size pickup without a twerking back end …”

      I’ve never seen a Toyota’s back end wiggle and bounce around like Ford’s do. Just yesterday I watched a late-model Ford do a crazy dance routine on a rough section of road that no other car or (non-Ford) truck even noticed. I can’t speak for the back end of my own Ranger but I do know it likes to dance, at least partially because the suspension’s so stiff and the tail is so light.

      • 0 avatar
        VW4motion

        Baby got back !!!

        Don’t get me wrong. The tundra is very durable. But, it’s built for light towing and those trips to Home Depot. I’ve talked to many a folk that had issues towing just the weight that is stated in the manual.

        • 0 avatar
          VW4motion

          https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GJZVUnOduH4

          Hundreds of tundra twerking videos online.

        • 0 avatar
          Vulpine

          ” The tundra is very durable. But, it’s built for light towing and those trips to Home Depot.”

          Based on the old commercials, that statement is anything BUT true.

        • 0 avatar
          gtemnykh

          @VW4motion
          Do you have any shred of credible evidence to support these claims?

          As I understand it, that C channel frame allows them to fit a stiffer leafpack out back that doesn’t squat as much as many competitors with a heavy payload in the bed, while maintaining reasonable ride comfort when unloaded.

          Say what you might about its brutish fuel consumption, but with that factory 4.30 rear end and 5.7L V8, Tundras are towing beasts. And components like brakes, axles, tie rod ends, transfer-case guts, are built closer to a 3/4 ton spec than perhaps anything else being sold as a half-ton.

          But hey you’ve talked to ‘many a folk.’

          • 0 avatar
            VW4motion

            Just watch the baby got back videos. And what evidence would you like? You can talk to a dozen people and they will all have a different opinion. And yes, I’ve talked to people that have said the tundra is great and some that say they would not trust the frame to tow what the manual states.

            Bottom line the 1/2 ton tundra is out of date and gets the fuel economy of a big three 3/4 or 1 ton truck. Those are the facts.

          • 0 avatar
            Vulpine

            “Just watch the baby got back videos.”

            —- What you aren’t saying is that there was evidence that the speeds down that course were very specifically tuned to each vehicle to show the Ford at its best and the rest at their worst. Running the different clips side by side you could see that they weren’t all traveling at the same speed.

            Remember, that video was specifically created BY Ford to show off its truck to greatest advantage back in ’09. Chevy proved the Ford was actually less rigid than the video made it look that same year.

          • 0 avatar
            gtemnykh

            I know what you’re referring to with the frame flex, what’s your point? Ever see a C-channel big rig jostle and flex?

            You’re saying the Tundra is somehow less capable of towing and hauling and point to these videos of the bed moving relative to the body. I’m saying that’s wholly irrelevant to how the truck actually functions and how it hauls/tows, and that in fact the Tundra is a great tow-rig and hauler owing to its overbuilt nature and strong motor.

          • 0 avatar
            VW4motion

            @gt,
            The tundra is a very durable truck. I’ve watch the million mile video. I just haven’t gotten drunk on the “over built” toyoder BS bath water pretending it’s a 3/4 ton truck.

          • 0 avatar
            gtemnykh

            Okay, so we agree that it’s not a 3/4 ton truck… moving goal posts much?

            You seemed to imply above that it struggles to tow relative to its own class (half tons).

          • 0 avatar
            VW4motion

            I’d like to see the data on the people that believe the “over built” bath water on the tundra and believing trump actually thought he would build that wall.

          • 0 avatar
            gtemnykh

            Okay now you’re just rambling incoherently. My job here is done.

          • 0 avatar
            VW4motion

            Guess I just proved that point.

          • 0 avatar
            wstarvingteacher

            Someone in Louisiana just put 1,000,000 miles on a Tundra V6. Did a lot of highway driving to South Dakota and Virginia iirc. Toyota swapped him for a new one. Going to tear his million mile Tundra down and see what, if anything, is wearing out.

            I hear a lot of comments but haven’t seen much that fits my needs better than the 23y/o 4runner in my driveway. They have a fan here even with all the comments about their styling/drive train etc. ymmv

          • 0 avatar
            gtemnykh

            wstarving, the million mile Tundra was an ’07 with the smaller 4.7L 1UZFE iron block V8 (still uses a timing belt). A few online articles (Jalopnik?) mistakenly said it was the 4.0L V6.

      • 0 avatar
        Scoutdude

        Then you haven’t been watching them. It doesn’t take more than a few pebbles in the road to make a Tundra bed dance like it is on a 80’s minitruck.

        • 0 avatar
          Vulpine

          The dance I saw was definitely a Ford. My Ranger likes to skitter its tail around a bit, but I’ve never noticed it doing the shimmy the way that F-150 was doing. “Oh my gosh, look at that bu__! Truck’s got booty!”

          • 0 avatar
            Scoutdude

            You are confusing a truck “skittering” around because the spring rate is to high to deal with minor bumps. It is not at all like the frame flexing and the bed bouncing all over the place that you see in a Tundra. Seriously pay attention the next time you are beside or behind a Tundra on a less than glass smooth road.

          • 0 avatar
            Vulpine

            Clearly, scouty, you misread my statement. My Ranger skitters; this F-150 I was watching was doing the the shimmy… alternating buttocks bouncing up and down like a professional stripper. In fact, it looked almost exactly like the Toyota in that referenced video while every other truck going over that same patch of pavement hardly even noticed it (including my Ranger.)

          • 0 avatar
            Scoutdude

            And was that a brand new truck? Don’t discount the condition of the vehicle causing problems like that.

            This summer I purchased a 2002 F150 super cab 4×4 to keep in the county where some of my properties are located. For the most part it drove and rode as good as one can expect from a pickup with a decent load capacity and nothing or little in the bed. However there was a situation where the handling was a little scary.

            The nearest entrance to the freeway from where the truck is kept is a very weird and completely out dated arrangement. You head down a city street and near the end of the street you veer left to the on ramp that is super short, having rammed this freeway through town the cheap and dirty way. Well the area where you veer to the left is a terrible mess of failed overlays and patches. If I hit that at the speed you need to have a hope of merging into traffic the bumps would cause the front of the truck to jump to the right very noticeably. I repeated it a couple of times and decided that something was wrong. All of ball joints, tire rods and bushings looked good as the OE shocks and the shocks did not exhibit any unusual activity at any other time. However from what was happening it was clear the shocks were not keeping the wheels properly planted on the ground. So I went to the local parts store and got a set of their cheapest shocks. (and the guy behind the counter certainly tried to sell me on the $20 more a stick models they also had in stock). Put them in and lo and behold the truck no longer jumps to the right getting on the freeway at that ramp.

            So you may consider a set of shocks for the back of your Ranger and see if it improves things.

          • 0 avatar
            Vulpine

            @Scouty: I clearly said, “late model.” No, I don’t know the exact year but it was well kept and had no visible defects. I’d say no older than about five years though possible as little as 2 years.

            And I know my Ranger is a dancer. At 20 years old she’s on her original suspension (albeit new tires). Thinking about leveling with a set of variable-rate springs and some new shocks.

          • 0 avatar
            gtemnykh

            I just redid front and rear shocks on my ’97 Ranger that had the original incredibly rusted out units. Wow what a transformation! I did Motorcrafts in front and Monroe air adjustables in the back for some manual load leveling. Money very well spent.

  • avatar
    PrincipalDan

    Akio Toyoda says Toyota will build vehicles people want

    THAT’S CRAZY IT WILL NEVER WORK!

  • avatar
    I_like_stuff

    Bbbbut bbbut bbbbut Global Warming/Cooling/Changing!!!!!

    Someone think of the children!!!!

  • avatar
    I_like_stuff

    I’ll consider an EV when two things happen

    1. There is an EV “gas station” on every corner and I can “fill up” in 5 mins.
    2. I can drive ~400 miles before needing to fill up, like I can do with my current ICE cars.

    I don’t see that happening for at least a decade.

    • 0 avatar
      Vulpine

      @I_L_S:

      1. There is an EV “gas station” on every corner and I can “fill up” in 5 mins.
      —- Why? If you can start EVERY DAY with the equivalent of ¾ths of a tank or more, why do you need so many EV stations?

      2. I can drive ~400 miles before needing to fill up, like I can do with my current ICE cars.
      —- You can already do that, Chevy Bolt drivers commonly getting more than 300 miles per charge and Tesla owners getting up to 100 miles over that, depending on battery size and how they drive. Drive sensibly and 400 miles is easy in a Tesla. Drive like an idiot and even 300 miles with a P100D is pushing it.

  • avatar
    danio3834

    I’m driving a Pacifica Hybrid at the moment and I’m finding out the limitations to trying to drive as much as possible in electric mode. There just aren’t charging stations everywhere you need them. Luckily it’s a hybrid and will fire up the engine when needed. Planning out a trip to make use of charging stations takes quite a bit of forethought.

    It however is the perfect vehcile for my wife who doesn’t regularly leave a 5 mile radius from home.

    • 0 avatar
      mcs

      The greater the range of a full BEV, the less you need public charging – provided you don’t live in an apartment. With a 200 to 300-mile range EV, you only have to plan for long trips. With a Tesla, it’s even easier.

      • 0 avatar
        danio3834

        The lack of chargers really is an issue even with a 200 mile range unless the car is always used in the same routine all the time. Let it get too low and it’s stuck at the station that you can find for a significant amount of time. For me to make use of pure electric I’d need a rapid charging station avaialble near most of my stops so it’s plugged in most of the off time to try and recover range in short spurts. Never will I want to get down to 50 miles then go 15 mintutes out of my way to find a station that I hope will be unoccupied for a substantial amount of time. It’s easy to say it’s easy until you try and use them like a normal ICE car.

  • avatar

    Toyota are fully invested in the Hybrid. Be that gasoline or hydrogen.

    They pioneered the Hybrid and have done nothing to advanced car drivetrains since.

    I see the natural progression of vehicles to go from

    Gas –>> Hybrid –> Plug-in Hybrid –> BEV.

    Each stage bringing a little more electrification until there is no more fossil fuels. Toyota made the step to Hybrid, but for some reason are hesitant to advanced drivetrains further. Maybe they want to commercially exploit the hybrid before moving on.

    On the opposite side of the scale Tesla and Nissan jumped straight to the end game, missing the stuff in between. GM are on their heels. It ‘gets them ahead’ technically, but leaves the mainstream customer behind. There are many more hybrids sold than BEV’s.

    Personally I prefer to jump to the end game, but see that such a leap leaves the marketplace behind.

    Tesla are leading from the front with the rest drafting in the peloton, it’s not clear who will win the yellow jacket. Will Tesla breakaway or will Toyota conserve its resources and make its big push when the time is right? It’s gonna be an interesting race.

  • avatar
    Corollaman

    So, when is the new Celica coming?

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