BEIJING – Starting in 2020 Toyota Motor Corp. plans to introduce electric vehicles in China, and the carmaker is also considering selling battery-powered autos developed by its local partners under the Japanese brand.
“We have decided to launch electric vehicles in China ahead of other regions,” said Hiroji Onishi, a senior managing officer and CEO for the China Region, at the Guangzhou international motor show Friday, adding that the company is also mulling producing the vehicles in the country.
Japan’s biggest automaker will also launch a pair of compact crossovers, the C-HR and IZOA, from the middle of next year, the company also said at the motor show. A Toyota spokeswoman declined to say whether the C-HR and IZOA would be offered as hybrids, or if batteries and powertrains for the EV would be sourced locally.
Selling electric vehicles in China will mark the return of Toyota into the battery-powered vehicles market after it halted production of the RAV4 EV in 2014. Toyota President Akio Toyoda said in September the company is a “little bit late” to the EV segment as rival automakers such as Volkswagen AG and Ford Motor Co. push ahead with that technology.
Global carmakers are rushing in with new strategies for low-emission vehicles in China, the world’s biggest auto market. On Thursday, Volkswagen said it will invest more than 10 billion euros ($12 billion) with its partners to make and develop a range of new-energy vehicles in China. Last week, Ford said it will invest 5 billion yuan ($754 million) with its partner in China.
Toyota trails Japanese rivals Nissan Motor Co. and Honda Motor Co. in China although all three carmakers saw sales rise this year, helped partly by a slump at Korean rival Hyundai Motor Co. Honda is challenging the leadership Nissan has held since 2009, partly on the success of the XR-V and Vezel compact crossovers.
Like other foreign automakers in China, Toyota provides slightly different versions of the same vehicle to local joint venture partners. The C-HR will be available with partner Guangzhou Automobile Group Co., while the IZOA will be offered with FAW Group Corp. Toyota introduced the C-HR in Japan and Europe in late 2016, and in the U.S. from April.
Toyota’s China sales in the first 10 months of this year totaled 1.07 million vehicles, compared with Honda’s 1.16 million and Nissan’s 1.17 million. Nissan said today it is raising its full-year China sales target to 1.5 million vehicles.