The Japanese automaker is ramping up promotional campaigns to ensure its investments in hybrids or hydrogen fuel cars don't go down the drain.
Toyota executives must have had an emotional moment when the company first developed the Prius. That moment, unfortunately, was a thing of the distant past.

The Prius ( top photo ) was the world's first mass-produced hybrid car, many years ahead of its competitors. The first model, a compact sedan, embodies classic Toyota lines - a dependable vehicle designed to "get there, get there". After a design overhaul in 2004, Prius sales skyrocketed. The Prius' Kammback-style rear end is instantly recognizable, and its fuel economy and practicality are unmatched. People are crazy about the Prius. Even many celebrities who want to resonate with the environmental movement also come to this model. Leonardo DiCaprio once drove a Prius to the Oscars in 2008!

As the Prius' hybrid technology gets more advanced year by year, it's starting to make its way into other models, from the compact Prius C to the 3-row Highlander. Even Toyota's luxury brand Lexus has begun to hybridize many sedans and SUVs.

For many years, Toyota has always been a pioneer in the field of environmentally friendly vehicles. Its hybrid sedans and crossovers offset the emissions of large trucks and SUVs, giving the company a clear fuel economy edge over its competitors. By May 2012, Toyota had sold 4 million Prius cars globally.

A month later, Tesla announced the Model S, which quickly usurped the Prius to claim the green vehicle crown. The Tesla Model S proves that long-range electric cars, while expensive, are practical and desirable. Advances in battery technology also help reduce the price of electric cars, promising to be on par with gas-powered vehicles in the future.

But Toyota misunderstood what Tesla was doing. Despite pouring money into Tesla, the Japanese car giant does not see the US startup as a threat but only a newcomer who can help Toyota achieve its electric car goals. In some ways, it's understandable why Toyota would think that way.

Overall, Toyota and Tesla don't compete in the same market, and Toyota's global sales outperform the tiny American carmaker. Besides, hybrid vehicles at that time were only a temporary solution while waiting for Toyota's hydrogen fuel cell technology to mature. Toyota believes that the wide range and fast refueling of hydrogen vehicles will make electric cars redundant.

However, Toyota did not realize the small changes were taking place. Hybrid cars are indeed a bridge to cleaner fuel vehicles, but Toyota overestimated the length of that bridge. Just as Blackberry skipped the iPhone, Toyota skipped Tesla and electric cars. Blackberry thinks the world will need a physical keyboard for many more years. Toyota thinks the world will need gasoline for decades to come. Both were wrong.

By tying itself to hybrid cars and betting its future on hydrogen fuel, Toyota now finds itself in a difficult position. Governments around the world are moving to ban fossil fuel vehicles, and they will do so much sooner than Toyota estimates. With the price of electric cars falling day by day, and charging infrastructure gradually expanding, fuel-cell vehicles are unlikely to appear in time to take advantage of time.

Therefore, in order to protect its investments, Toyota began to push ahead with its plan to prevent vehicles from using electric batteries. But are they too late?

Dead end

Ignoring the presence of electric cars over the past decade, Toyota now lags behind in an industry that is poised to transition to electric cars - not just electrify existing cars.

Toyota's fuel-cell car sales so far aren't impressive enough - the company's Mirai is still selling sluggishly, even with valuable hydrogen batteries built in. thousands of dollars, and it is unclear whether its new design will have any positive effects. Toyota's projects to encroach on electric cars are equally obscure. Their early efforts in solid-state batteries - which are said to be lighter and safer than current lithium-ion batteries - presented a number of production challenges in terms of economic efficiency, like a fuel cell. Last month, the Japanese company announced that it would launch more traditional electric car models in the next few years, but the first product has a launch date pushed to the end of 2022!

Faced with inevitable defeat, Toyota is doing what most of the world's major corporations do when they realize they've played the wrong pitch: try to change the game.

Specifically, Toyota has been trying to convince governments of countries to lower emissions standards, or oppose plans to kill fossil fuel cars. Over the past four years, Toyota's political contributions in the US and PACs have more than doubled. This also brought the company under heavy criticism. By donating to congressmen who oppose further restrictions on emissions, the company has funded the legislators appointed to certify the results of the 2020 US presidential election, despite Toyota's promise to do so. stopped doing this in January, it was quickly discovered that the last time donations went into the pockets of the controversial lawmakers was...last month.

Toyota also launched a FUD campaign - short for fear, uncertainty, and doubt - to create an ugly image of electric vehicles. " If we are to make major progress in electrification, we will have to overcome enormous challenges, including fueling infrastructure, battery availability, human acceptance, and so on. consumption, and affordable prices, " said Robert Wimmer, director of energy and environmental research at Toyota Motor North America, before lawmakers in this country in March.

What comes will have to happen

While such FUDs may have worked in the past, when electric cars were still expensive and the network of charging points was limited, the situation is different now, and Toyota's campaign may look out of place. in a few years. Consumers are no longer gullible. According to recent surveys, between 30-40% of consumers say the next product they buy will be an electric car. Some even made that decision earlier than expected - as evidenced by the fact that in the last year, electric car sales in the US have doubled, compared with growth of just 29% for the rest of the market.

Former Blackberry executives must have noticed the familiarity here. Although Blackberry sales continued to grow for several years after the arrival of iPhone and Android, the company's future was still inescapable. The market has changed, but Blackberry hasn't adapted in time. Today, Blackberry's market share is essentially a no-brainer.

The car market changes more slowly than the mobile phone market, so Toyota still has a few years to go to get on the right track. But the barrier for them is getting higher and higher - the company will need to spend billions of dollars over the next several years to develop a new vehicle. Toyota doesn't seem ready to come along with electric cars, despite the signals being received from the market. The Blackberry lesson is still there.

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