Toyota's new CEO, Koji Sato, has pledged to "drastically" accelerate the rollout of new electric vehicles as part of his goal to reinvent the world's largest automaker as a mobility company.
While unveiling a new leadership team on February 13 (watch the press conference in the video above), Sato said the EV offensive would center around a next-generation platform, which is expected to arrive around 2026.
The announcement comes as Toyota Motor Corporation is being criticized by investors, environmental activists and EV enthusiasts for falling behind in the global EV race.
Sato said he is prioritizing a three-pronged strategy after he takes over from Akio Toyoda as CEO on April 1.
The priorities will be to ramp up the carmaker's EV strategy, strengthen its Woven-related software-first initiatives, and focus on achieving carbon neutrality in Asia.
That said, Sato pledged Toyota would stick with the diverse powertrain strategy pioneered by his predecessor, in which the automaker continues to develop hybrid, plug-in hybrid and hydrogen-powered cars in addition to pursuing EVs.
"I don't think a one-size-fits-all solution works," Sato told Automotive News while also promising big changes on the EV front. He noted that the renewed focus on EVs is not in reaction to increased competition from US and Chinese startups as well as traditional rivals like General Motors and Volkswagen.
Rather, Toyota sees this as the time to develop a next generation of EVs that better channel its brand identity and its competence as a low-cost, efficient manufacturer. "The competitiveness and cost of BEVs is going to be a very big challenge," he said.
For Sato, a top priority is to rethink Toyota's battery electric product plans.
"The first is business reform starting with next-generation BEV. To deliver attractive BEVs to more customers, we must streamline the structure of the car and with a BEV-first mindset, we must drastically change the way we do business."
The executive said more details will likely be offered in April after he takes office. Lexus, the company he's currently heading as president, will have a leading role in steering the EV push.
The luxury brand already has a goal of going fully electric globally by 2035 and selling 1 million EVs worldwide in 2030. Toyota, as a whole, is targeting global sales of 3.5 million EVs in that time frame. It won't be easy getting there seeing as Toyota sold only 24,466 pure electric vehicles worldwide last year.