TOKYO: Toyota is considering a sharp increase in production of its first mass-market battery-electric vehicle from 2025, according to three people with knowledge of the developing plans, ramping up output of the vehicle amid a broader strategy rethink.
The Japanese automaker is considering increasing production of its bZ4X electric vehicle (EV) crossover by either six or 12 times from its current monthly output of a little more than 1,000 cars a month, from 2025 if it can secure needed components, including semiconductors, they said.
The car is produced at Toyota Motor Corp's Motomachi plant near its headquarters on a shared assembly line with gasoline cars and hybrids. Both the current and potential production numbers include those of the Subaru Corp Solterra, which is made on the same platform.
The increase would see Toyota add production at another plant near its headquarters, the Takaoka factory, said the three people, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the information was not public.
Toyota declined to comment.
The potential ramp-up in production comes as the automaker has faced criticism for not moving faster to embrace all-electric cars and pushing hybrid technology instead. It has launched a review of its EV strategy, Reuters reported this week.
As part of that review - which could result in a more aggressive roadmap for future electric vehicles based on technologies that promise to lower cost and improve performance - it has also suspended development work on some of the 30 new EV models it announced last year and planned to launch by 2030, Reuters reported.
Ramping up the bZ4X would ensure that Toyota would still have a presence in battery electrics while the review was ongoing, one of the people said.
At the high end of the increased projection, Toyota would be producing over 190,000 of the EVs per year. By comparison, Toyota sold just under 86,000 of the standard hybrid Prius hatchback in 2021.
The two-year window ahead of any ramp-up in production for the new EV reflects the time needed to get suppliers to commit, the difficulty Toyota and other automakers face in sourcing automotive chips and the still-uncertain sales outlook for the new EV, one of the people with knowledge of the plan said.
Toyota restarted production of its first electric vehicle (EV), the bZ4X, earlier this month after a three-month delay due to problems with the wheels and airbags that prompted a safety recall days after its launch.
On Wednesday, it resumed lease orders for it in Japan and cut the one-time fee on orders from the equivalent of US$5,175 by half to US$2,587.
Toyota said the price cut reflected feedback from consumers. It opted to make the new EV available only on lease, saying it believed Japanese consumers did not want to have to worry about battery life and resale value.
The bZ4X is also being sold in Europe and the United States. Toyota is manufacturing the EV in China for that market.
The Toyota EVs that are now in development limbo because of its strategy revamp include the battery-powered Compact Cruiser and an EV version of the Toyota Crown, according to people with knowledge of the development and a document reviewed by Reuters.
Separately, on Monday, Toyota announced it was building a small electric-drive sedan powered by BYD Co batteries that would be produced and sold in China.
That car, the bX3, would be the second model in the "Beyond Zero" (bz) series of battery-electric vehicles from Toyota.