Toyota chairman Takeshi Uchiyamada has challenged competitors to step up sales of hybrids in the United States, calling them “a long bridge” to future vehicles.
Uchiyamada, who pioneered the Prius, told the Economic Club of Washington, DC: “Today I wish to call on the industry to sell five million hybrids in the US by the end of 2016.”
Uchiyamada forecast that hybrid vehicles would play a larger role than understood at the moment in the development of automotive propulsion systems.
“It's only when we put ourselves under the same kind of intense pressure we faced in developing the Prius that we can achieve great goals. That's what it takes.
“I want our industry to achieve this goal.”
Uchiyamada was chief engineer of the Toyota team that developed the Prius, the world's first mass-produced petrol-electric hybrid car, launched in 1997.
He became chairman of the Japanese automaker in June, succeeding Fujio Cho.
“Some people say hybrid vehicles such as the Prius are only a bridge to the future. But we think it could be a long bridge and a very sturdy one,” Uchiyamada said.
“There are many more gains we can achieve with hybrids,” he added.
Uchiyamada said he was “particularly excited” by a Toyota project developing a new hydrogen fuel-cell vehicle that would have zero tailpipe emissions and eliminate some of the issues with electric vehicles, such as charging time and driving distance.
He noted the auto industry needed to gear up to achieve the ambitious mileage standards established by President Barack Obama's administration.
“Right now our focus is on the US market.”
Toyota sells more than two million cars a year in the country.
“But unfortunately, in the case of Toyota, in China we still have a very small, or low, presence, selling around 900 000 vehicles,” he said, speaking through a translator.
Toyota surged past US automaker Ford in August to win second place in US sales as sales jumped 23 percent to 231 537 vehicles, the company's best month in more than five years.
Toyota Motor Sales executive vice president Bob Carter said the company expected to sell more than 2.2 million vehicles in the United States in 2013, up from 2.1 million in 2012 and 1.6 million in 2011. - Reuters