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Toyota chief wants tax breaks to advance carbon neutrality goal

Japanese PM Kishida and automaker head meet in search for greener mobility

Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, left, and Toyota Motor President Akio Toyoda meet to discuss achieving carbon neutrality and other issues in Tokyo on Nov. 2.

TOKYO (Reuters) -- Toyota Motor President Akio Toyoda on Wednesday raised the issue of tax breaks in a meeting with Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida on support for the mobility industry as a pillar of the economy as Japan seeks to cut carbon emissions.

The pair's meeting came after Kishida said he wanted to exchange views with auto industry leaders over issues like Japan's to reduce carbon. Kishida in June toured a Toyota plant in the automaker's home prefecture of Aichi in a rare visit.

A key challenge facing Toyota and its major Japanese peers, Nissan Motor and Honda Motor, is catching up with rivals like Tesla who have forged ahead in fully electric vehicles.

"I feel that we were able to kick off [a discussion about] Japan's carbon neutrality efforts and digital transformation, with mobility as core," said Toyoda, who leads a committee on mobility-related issues under Japan's powerful business lobbying group Keidanren, speaking to reporters after the meeting.

Toyoda said he brought up a tax concession at the meeting with the prime minister, who showed a willingness to keep a discussion going on support, according to the Toyota executive.

At the end of the meeting, Kishida said the public and private sectors need to work together to protect the Japanese economy and jobs in the face of digitalization and push for carbon neutrality.

Toyota, broadly seen as a bellwether for Japan Inc. and once a darling of environmentalists for its hybrid gasoline-electric Prius model, is facing particularly heavy scrutiny from green investors and activists over its stance on EVs.

The Japanese automaker has been pushing back against critics, arguing that while battery-powered EVs are a powerful weapon for cutting carbon emissions there are various other options to achieve the goal.

"Right now is in transition [in decarbonization] so we should let technological innovation take place in various ways and [offer] various choices," Toyoda said.

Reuters reported in June that Toyota president Toyoda, who also leads Japan's auto lobbying group, has called on the Japanese government to make clear that it backs hybrid vehicles as much as battery EVs or face losing the auto industry's support.

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