By Bryan Preston.
Depending on how and when you count, Japan’s Toyota is the world’s largest automaker. According to Wheels, Toyota and Volkswagen vie for the title of the world’s largest, with each taking the crown from the other as the market moves. That’s including Volkswagen’s inherent advantage of sporting 12 brands versus Toyota’s four. Audi, Lamborghini, Porsche, Bugatti, and Bentley are included in the Volkswagen brand family.
GM, America’s largest automaker, is about half Toyota’s size thanks to its 2009 bankruptcy and restructuring. Toyota is actually a major car manufacturer in the United States; in 2016 it made about 81% of the cars it sold in the U.S. right here in its nearly half a dozen American plants. If you’re driving a Tundra, RAV4, Camry, or Corolla it was probably American-made in a red state. Toyota was among the first to introduce gas-electric hybrid cars into the market, with the Prius twenty years ago. It hasn’t been afraid to change the car game.
All of this is to point out that Toyota understands both the car market and the infrastructure that supports it perhaps better than any other manufacturer on the planet. It hasn’t grown its footprint through acquisitions, as Volkswagen has, and it hasn’t undergone bankruptcy and bailout as GM has. Toyota has grown by building reliable cars for decades.
When Toyota offers an opinion on the car market, it’s probably worth listening to. This week, Toyota reiterated an opinion it has offered before. That opinion is straightforward: The world is not yet ready to support a fully electric auto fleet.
Toyota’s head of energy and environmental research Robert Wimmer testified before the Senate this week, and said: “If we are to make dramatic progress in electrification, it will require overcoming tremendous challenges, including refueling infrastructure, battery availability, consumer acceptance, and affordability.”