Incoming Toyota CEO says Lexus will be focus of accelerated battery-electric offerings

On 13 February, incoming Toyota Corp chief executive officer, Koji Sato, announced that the Japanese auto giant will ramp up its battery-electric offerings by focusing on its Lexus luxury brand, Reuters reported.

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Sato made it clear, though, that the company will not deviate from a long-held strategy of exploring other technologies.

The comments from Sato, who takes over the world’s largest auto manufacturer from April 1, come as Toyota has pushed back against critics who have said it has been too slow to embrace battery-powered electric vehicles.

Toyota, which popularised the hybrid technology of the Prius, has said that hybrids make better sense for many drivers, especially in markets where the infrastructure is not ready to support batteries. It has also championed hydrogen-powered cars as the future.

Sato said Toyota would accelerate its battery-electric offerings by focusing on the Lexus.

"This is not a fast pivot towards battery EVs," he said, adding that much of the problem stemmed from one of "communication" about Toyota's strategy.

"To the point that we have been slow at battery EV projects, I think around half of it is a communication issue," he said.

He said the company was sticking to a previous goal of selling 3.5 million battery-electric vehicles by 2030.

He reckoned there would be further communication in April about the strategy once his team members assumed their roles.

An engineer by training, Sato started his career at Toyota in 1992 before rising through the ranks to become chief engineer of Lexus International in 2016.

While he oversaw the creation of Lexus's first fully electric model, he did previously speak of keeping open other options for powering vehicles.

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