More than 50 consumer and environmental groups representing millions of supporters from 26 countries have written an open letter to the new CEO of Toyota, calling on the company to commit to phasing out the sale of all internal combustion engine vehicles in the US and Europe by 2030, and globally by 2035.
The letter also calls on Toyota to end all anti-climate lobbying, immediately.
The open letter, dated March 30, 2023, is addressed to incoming CEO Koji Sato, who will officially become Toyota’s CEO on April 1st after the current CEO and grandson of Toyota’s founder, Akio Toyoda decided to step down earlier this year.
The letter has been cosigned by groups around the world including the Environmental Health Coalition, Greenpeace, The Sunrise Project and Australia’s Smart Energy Council and begins by calling out Toyota’s record of actively lobbying governments to delay the transition away from polluting vehicles.
“Under your predecessor, Mr. Akio Toyoda, Toyota Motor Corporation lobbied to delay electric vehicle (EV) adoption so rigorously that the company was ranked the most obstructive automaker in the world on climate policy for two years running.” the letter reads.
“Toyota’s commitment to sell 3.5 million all-electric vehicles per year by 2030 would only account for one third of your company’s current vehicle sales, despite surging consumer demand for EVs. Over 50% of car buyers globally say they want their next car to be electric. EV sales jumped from 3.2 million in 2020 to more than 10 million per year in 2022.”
Toyota sold just 20,000 electric vehicles globally last year, making up just 0.2% of its total production. If Toyota was to reach a production rate of 3.5 million EVs in just 6 years it would have to grow EV production five times faster than Tesla which has the fastest automotive production growth rate in history.
Scaling automotive production is hard. Even with record production growth rates it took Tesla 9 years to go from 22,000 to 1 million EVs per year. Toyota’s claims that it will grow EV production at five times that rate aren’t backed up by any real plan or evidence as to how it will achieve the target.
Letter highlights societal health impacts of Toyota’s strategy
The letter points to the shocking health impacts that petrol and diesel cars are having on people worldwide as well as the recent shifts by lawmakers to ban the sale of internal combustion vehicles.
A world-first study published in February showed that exposure to diesel exhaust pollution can dull human brains within hours.
Another study published last month showed that in addition to 12,000 cardiovascular hospitalisations, 66,000 active asthma cases, and almost 7,000 respiratory hospitalisations, petrol and diesel exhaust pollution could cause more than 11,000 premature deaths per year in Australia.
That’s about ten times more deaths than road accidents cause in Australia each year.
“Toyota’s refusal to lead a rapid transition to electric vehicles as well as advocacy against EV policies also harms consumers. Air pollution from burning fossil fuels is responsible for one in five deaths globally,” the letter says.
“With no tailpipe emissions, electric vehicles are better for our health and essential to keeping our planet livable. Increasingly, zero-emission vehicles are also required by law, pushing the market more rapidly towards its inevitable shift away from internal combustion engine cars.
“As incoming CEO, you have the opportunity to change course on decades of harm and deceit caused by Toyota and lead the industry toward its electric future.
“In addition to Toyota’s aggressive opposition to EVs, the company has cheated on emissions testing and executives have overstated the benefits of plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEV)s as shown by recent research indicating that PHEVs’ real-world fuel consumption and carbon emissions are on average three to five times higher than expected.”
Groups want CEO to make 6 key commitments
The letter calls on the new CEO to make six key commitments.
“As CEO of Lexus, you led electrification and publicly pledged to meet industry-leading standards. We call on you as incoming Toyota Motor Corporation CEO to immediately commit to:
- Phase out internal combustion engine vehicles (including hybrids and plug-in hybrids) in the U.S. and Europe by 2030 and globally by 2035;
- Align advocacy and lobbying with the goal of phasing out internal combustion engines, and be a voice for 100% renewable energy economy-wide;
- Require 100% renewable energy use throughout your supply chains globally by 2035;
- By 2025, sign a procurement commitment for fossil-free primary steel with a steel producer and additionally commit to source 100% fossil-free steel by 2050;
- Require responsible sourcing of your battery minerals, and develop battery design that allows for easy reuse and recycling of minerals;
- Establish a clear commitment to Indigenous Peoples’ right to Free, Prior and Informed Consent, which should be extended to your suppliers.”
Australia’s Smart Energy Council calls on Toyota to “turn a new leaf”
John Grimes, CEO of the Smart Energy Council who also signed the open letter, commented on the importance of strong fuel efficiency standards and halting the obstructive lobbying from Toyota.
“Australia is expecting a national electric vehicle strategy any day now, and at the heart of that strategy must be strong fuel efficiency standards, to spur cheaper electric vehicle models into Australia, to bring down fuel bills and to reduce transport emissions.” said Grimes.
“We cannot let the lobbying efforts of the polluting, fossil fuel car industry industry hold us back from sensible transport policy any longer.”
“It is time that Australia had access to the vast array of electric vehicle models available – including smaller vehicles, cheaper vehicles and utility vehicles – instead of simply accepting the vehicles that are too dirty and inefficient to be sold elsewhere.” he said.
“That is why we are calling on the new CEO of Toyota to turn a new leaf – to end anti-climate lobbying immediately and not to weaken or push back against the introduction of vehicle standards, and instead be an industry leader and voice for electrification.”
The open letter comes just days after Toyota lost an appeal to Australia’s Federal Court after it was ordered to pay $1.3 billion to over 250,000 customers who bought diesel cars with a “core defect” with anti-pollution devices.
Toyota was also recently referred to the Australian consumer watchdog for “greenwashing” after it allegedly made misleading claims regarding the environmental performance of its vehicles and its net zero ambitions.
Daniel Bleakley is a clean technology researcher and advocate with a background in engineering and business. He has a strong interest in electric vehicles, renewable energy, manufacturing and public policy.