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Toyota is Getting Serious About Electric Cars

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Photo: Daniel

Toyota was ahead of the game when it launched the Prius in 1997, the world’s first mass-produced hybrid vehicle; and given it currently has more than a 50% share of the hybrid market in the United States and recently reached the nine million hybrid sales milestone, we’d say that nearly two decades after the launch of the Prius, the automaker has managed to stay ahead.

But Toyota has also lagged behind, particularly in the world of all-electric vehicles, preferring to instead focus on hybrids, plug-in hybrids, and hydrogen fuel cell technology to further its dream of a less polluted, more efficient automotive world. That is, until now.

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The Toyota Motor Corporation has just announced that Akio Toyoda, the grandson of the company’s founder Kiichiro Toyoda, was appointed as president of the automaker’s newly-formed electric vehicle planning department, along with Executive Vice Presidents Mitsuhisa Kato and Shigeki Terashi. If that didn’t make the company’s future goals clear enough, even the man behind the plug-in Prius Prime, Koji Toyoshima, has been made head of the new EV department’s engineering division.

Toyota actually seems aware that the decision to finally focus on EVs is coming a little late. “By putting the president and vice presidents in charge of the department, we plan to speed up development of electric cars,” said Toyota spokeswoman Kayo Doi.

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The increasing competition from automakers such as Tesla, Volkswagen, and Nissan (who just purchased Mitsubishi to become the third largest car manufacturer in the world), all of whom see electric cars as the future of transportation, no doubt helped motivate Toyota into action.

Now we just have to wait and see what Toyota comes up with.