Upcoming Toyota CEO Koji Sato is reportedly considering refitting one of its U.S. facilities to manufacture EVs, as he prepares to accelerate the automaker’s electrification strategy.
Despite an industry-wide push to induce an electric vehicle transition, the automaker’s outgoing chief, Akio Toyoda, refused to join other brands in their EV enthusiasm, predicting that consumer interest would take much longer to coalesce. Instead, Toyota focused on hybrid vehicles, but as other competitors posted increasingly enviable EV sales, the Japanese company seemed to become keenly aware it was at risk of being abandoned. Last year was likely the breaking point, after most brands reported EV deliveries in the hundreds of thousands to the millions, while Toyota only sold 24,000 total. Sato, the former chief branding officer at Lexus, is set to take over Toyoda’s position first thing in April, and has confirmed the company will be “accelerating the shift to electrification” with “concrete actions and products.”
Japanese news platform Nikkei Business reported that Sato’s new plans include a U.S. EV factory, to be operational by 2025. This facility would upgrade the still operating Toyota Motor Manufacturing, Kentucky, Inc. (TMMK) plant to allow for electric SUV production, with an annual target of 200,000 by 2026. Although Toyota has declined to confirm any of these details and noted that a final decision had yet to be reached on the matter, Nikkei noted that the move to expand TMMK’s production abilities would allow the brand’s vehicles to qualify for tax credits in the Biden Administration’s Inflation Reduction Act. Many other automakers have expanded manufacturing efforts in the U.S. as a result of the legislation, which requires a majority of a vehicle’s components to be domestically sourced. With Sato’s arrival just over a month away, and investors anxiously awaiting details on the company’s new direction, an official announcement is likely to arrive soon.
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