Toyota’s Future


At Toyota’s second Kenshiki Forum, the Japanese giant outlined to Motorhub the progress it is making to become a mobility company. Toyota is creating new ways of moving from A to B – inspired by new forms of connectivity, automated vehicles, shared services and the ‘surge towards electrification’… Oh and get used to hearing the word Kinto!

We attended the first forum held in the Netherlands last year in person. This year’s online event was again hosted by Dr Johan van Zyl, President & CEO of Toyota Motor Europe. He told us the pandemic is ‘accelerating the way that Toyota is changing’ and quoted Toyota President, Akio Toyoda who said its business should move beyond manufacturing vehicles to “producing happiness for all”. At Kenshiki 1 Toyota declared its transition from a traditional automotive business by pioneering a number of mobility initiatives like car sharing and other solutions to move people around in the future. Inspiration for this transformation was taken from the firm’s origins that can be traced back to Sakichi Toyoda. He had a deep desire to make things easier for his mother, who worked with a loom until late into the night. From that strong motivation, the automatic loom was created and the Toyota company was born. Kiichiro Toyoda inherited the sentiment and made reference to it when reinventing Toyota as a car company many decades ago. Van Zyl told us ‘We’ve always said that customers come first. But now we’re going beyond that by ensuring that everything we do will make a strong, positive contribution to society. That starts with facing some obvious challenges – right now’.

Toyota in Europe has seen a drop in sales from 2019’s 1,089,000 Toyota and Lexus vehicles to 975,000 in 2020, a drop of 10%, but it is still ahead of the market’s overall forecast drop of 22%. Sales of 1.1m are expected in Europe in 2021. Toyota’s average emissions will drop further also. Toyota’s signature hybrid technology accounts for more than 60% of all Toyota sales (West & Central Europe) and 96% of Lexus sales. Since 1997 over 16m Prius hybrids have been sold. Toyota said it expects demand for hybrid and PHEVs to rise by 600% in the next five years. Between 2020 and 2025, Toyota will launch more than 60 new or updated electrified products in Europe. This will include at least 10 zero-emission vehicles (battery electric and fuel-cell electric). The resulting powertrain mix in 2025 will be circa 70% hybrid, 10% plug-in hybrid and more than 10% zero-emissions.

Hydrogen will play a role in Toyota’s future (read our Mirai FCEV review here: Van Zyl said “We expect a Hydrogen society to play a vital future role. So we will continue to add fuel cell technology and products to our portfolio. Just as Prius pointed the way for hybrid, Mirai is the pioneer for the age of the hydrogen fuel cell, offering refuelling as rapidly (5 minutes) and easily as today’s petrol stations. When these building blocks are in place, Hydrogen’s potential for making the world a better place is enormous. We’re already demonstrating its potential in buses and trucks. And fuel cell technology is being used in boats and planes, and even space explorers!… So our goal is to go Beyond Zero, actively doing the world good”.

Toyota is investing in the future. Van Zyl said that in the past five years Toyota’s investment has included forming the Toyota Research Institute to help develop autonomy, robotics and new materials for batteries. “We introduced Toyota Connected using the data from our vehicles to deliver new services and forms of mobility to our customers. And we created the Woven Planet Group to develop the software platforms that will support the next significant wave of growth for Toyota, including the realisation of our vision of ‘creating mobility for all’. We’ve even begun to build a Woven City, an urban area of the future, to demonstrate connected, autonomous, shared, electrified and smart-city technologies, all powered by Toyota’s hydrogen fuel cell technology”.

At the last Kenshiki forum Toyota launched KINTO, its mobility sharing brand. There are many faces to KINTO (take a deep breath): ‘KINTO One’ is an all-inclusive leasing service that has so far been launched in seven European markets, with more to follow in 2021. It is now established a mid-size player in the fleet management market, with a fleet of more than 100,000 vehicles. ‘KINTO Share’ provides wide range of car sharing services, from corporate to public and residential customers. Currently operating in Ireland (Yuko), Italy, Denmark, Spain and Sweden, these services will be introduced in additional markets, while a KINTO Share service is also being designed for launch through the retailer network. ‘KINTO Flex’ is a short-term, flexible vehicle subscription service, allowing KINTO customers access to the full range of Toyota and Lexus vehicles, ‘enhancing the freedom of car ownership’ by offering access to various car types throughout the year, serving users’ taste and needs – all services and necessary maintenance included. ‘KINTO Join’ is a new corporate car pooling solution for employees to create their own private transportation network, launched in Norway and Italy and soon to be delivered in the UK.
KINTO Go’, a multi-modal aggregator (ed. I’ve no idea – but it sounds impressive!), which coordinates journey planning, public transport ticketing, parking, taxi services and events, is already achieving good results in Italy and plans are under way for its expansion in the short term (ed. okay I understand now). While Toyota acknowledges a there a decline in car sharing due to the pandemic, this ‘Share’ form of mobility will rise in the not too distant future. In Ireland the service that has been running for a while now as Yuko but with the launch of KINTO Europe, ‘Yuko’ will rebrand shortly as KINTO Ireland. KINTO Europe is a joint venture between Toyota Motor Europe and Toyota Financial Services and will open in April 2021, based in Cologne.

Toyota teased us with this sketch of its new Electric SUV

Tom Fux, CEO KINTO Europe told us: “We cannot simply follow a defined approach like our competitors or any other mobility player in the market. Instead, we will find our own way, one that utilises our unique advantages and differentiates us in the mobility space… There is no defined roadmap for what we are proposing, we have to build our own strategy drawing on our particular business strengths and capabilities. KINTO is not a single service or product, bound by one location, it is genuinely diverse, so we are building a one-stop shop for mobility services, aiming to become the mobility provider of choice for all types of customers.”

Toyota also outlined its commitment to partner up with other and often rival firms citing: Mazda, PSA and Suzuki for products such as the Proace and Proace City (vans), BMW with the Supra (Z4) and hydrogen fuel cells. Toyota is also working with Amazon AWS to develop and enhance mobility service platforms to, as it says: ‘allow us to quickly bring attractive customer solutions to market’. Over a couple of hours and a number of modules Kenshiki 2 gave us a good insight to Toyota’s plans – including a nice look at how Lexus driving dynamics are going to get a lot more interesting and fun with a clever all wheel drive system called ‘Direct4’.

Lexus mule on track with DIRECT4 all wheel drive

In conclusion Dr Johan van Zyl, President & CEO of Toyota Motor Europe said: “Increasingly our products and mobility solutions will make the world better than it was before. Perhaps through automated pods bringing businesses and services to your door. Or through fully connected environments like Woven City, powered by clean hydrogen. It sounds like a dream world, something from a science fiction movie or fantasy story. But I believe its closer than we think, and Toyota will be at the forefront of this movement by ensuring mobility for all – strongly contributing to sustainable development goals and creating widespread human happiness”.

Toyota’s new battery electric vehicle (BEV) impression


About Author

Michael Sheridan

Michael Sheridan is a senior and highly respected motoring journalist based in Ireland. He is a frequently heard voice on motoring, transport and mobility matters and has multiple credits on national television, national print media, national and local radio and other outlets. Michael Sheridan has been a Car of the Year Judge for more 20 years (& more recently a Van of the Year judge). Michael has produced and directed many international and national motoring TV programmes and documentaries both on cars and motorcycles - including four films on the iconic Route 66. Michael Sheridan is a former Chairperson of the Association of Professional Motoring Press (APMP).

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