Toyota bets on new energy vehicles

Toyota South Africa Motors (TSAM) has set itself the extremely ambitious target of selling more hybrid Corolla Cross models than traditional internal combustion engine models by 2035.

Corolla Cross Both 01

TSAM President and CEO, Andrew Kirby, confirmed this at the recent launch of production of the Corolla Cross, including production of the first locally produced volume hybrid electric vehicle, at TSAM’s manufacturing plant at Prospecton in Durban.

Kirby says TSAM had set itself this extremely ambitious target to drive change as fast as possible and establish the building blocks for TSAM’s long-term sustainability as a globally competitive and relevant exporter.

“We are committed to the adoption of new energy vehicles (NEVs) in the South African market and also need to keep pace with the green regulations in our export markets, such as the UK and the European Union," he says.

To put the target into perspective, Kirby provided details of recent sales of NEVs in South Africa.

He says in 2020 the entire industry only sold 224 NEVs while in the year-to-date only 322 NEVs have been sold – and most of these have been Lexus models.

“We plan to fundamentally change the NEV landscape in South Africa from a few hundred NEVs a year to well over 10 000 NEV vehicles,” he says.

However, Kirby says two specific challenges will have to be overcome: the global supply of NEV batteries and the affordability of NEVs.

“As much as you want to achieve these targets as soon as possible, you simply cannot secure an adequate supply of batteries owing to global constraints.

“And in a world where NEV sales are supported and regulated by many other countries, the allocation to South Africa is relatively small,” he says.

Kirby added that the cost of NEVs is simply not viable for many customers without the type of government support packages that are available in other countries around the world to establish a strong demand.

However, Kirby says TSAM has been encouraged by the issuing of the Automotive Green Paper in May this year by Trade and Industry and Competition Minister Ebrahim Patel, which provides details of concepts that will allow the automotive value chain to pivot towards NEVs.

Kirby is confident the Green Paper will translate into formal regulations and government support, adding that TSAM is anticipating that the government will provide a support package to reduce the price of NEVs to make them more accessible and to drive volumes.

He says TSAM has for this reason “set its pricing accordingly” for the T-Cross hybrid to enable hybrid technology to become more accessible.

“As government policy and support become clear – and this is acknowledging perhaps it becomes more accessible to customers – Toyota South Africa will grow NEVs’ availability in South Africa with lower carbon emission and zero emission vehicles.

“We will be providing hybrid electric vehicles, plug-in hybrid electric vehicles, battery electric vehicles and even fuel cell electric vehicles as soon as possible but always in tune with our customers’ true practical needs and always considering the most important way to fight our common enemy – carbon.

“We truly believe that the best way to reduce carbon emissions as soon as possible is to offer a choice of diverse solutions to our customers so they can choose the best options for their diverse circumstances.

“Our road map to carbon neutrality promises to be an exciting journey, and Toyota plans on playing a pivotal role as we transition towards green mobility in South Africa and on the continent,” he says.

Kirby added that an important aspect that was driving the success of the Corolla Cross project was to ensure that TSAM could satisfy its customers in South Africa and across the African continent with a flexible production line for both right- and left-hand drive vehicles and for the first time manufacture a hybrid car in Africa.

TSAM invested R2.6 billion in its Prospecton plant to produce the Corolla Cross.

Its manufacturing capacity for the Corolla Cross model is 30 000 units a year but 5 000 units are earmarked for export to 41 countries in the rest of Africa.

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