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Toyota steps up electric vehicle push with plans for 15 new models

Automaker looks beyond hybrids as Honda reveals own EV roadmap for China

Toyota's chief technology officer Masahiko Maeda discusses the automaker's EV platform in a video shown at the Shanghai auto show on April 19. (Photo by Takashi Kawakami) 

TOKYO -- Toyota Motor is set to introduce 15 electric vehicle models by 2025 as the world's biggest automaker looks to capture a slice of the fast-growing EV market.

The Japanese automaker is known for kick-starting the market for hybrid vehicles, which combine an engine with an electric motor, but has been less aggressive than its U.S. and European rivals in developing fully electric models. Its latest move is the first indication that Toyota intends to catch up and develop a full lineup of eco-friendly vehicles.

Seven of the EV models will be launched under a new brand, Toyota bZ. The first model, the Toyota bZ4X SUV, will be jointly developed with compatriot Subaru, in which Toyota has a 20% stake, and will go on sale by the middle of 2022.

Toyota aims to expand its total number of electrified models -- which include both hybrids and EVs -- to around 70 by 2025 from 55 as of the end of 2020. It currently sells four fully electric models.

The company announced the strategy on Monday at the Shanghai auto show, where it also unveiled a concept version of the bZ4X.

In addition to Subaru, Toyota will partner with China's BYD, Suzuki Motor and Toyota-owned Daihatsu Motor to develop models for the new series. Last year, Toyota launched a joint research and development company with BYD dedicated to EVs.

The bZ4X, which will be produced in Japan and China, is the company's first EV to be developed using the e-TNGA universal platform developed by Toyota and Subaru. The platform is intended to improve development efficiency by sharing parts and designs among multiple models.

Toyota's current EV models include the C-HR and IZOA, sold in China, and the Lexus UX300e for global markets. It plans to increase total sales of EVs and fuel-cell vehicles to over 1 million in 2030. Its global EV sales stood at around 3,300 units in 2020.

Its global rivals have unveiled even more ambitious goals.

Volkswagen said last month it will build six EV battery plants in Europe by 2030, the same year it aims to have electric vehicles account for 60% of its new car sales. General Motors of the U.S., meanwhile, has said it intends to only sell zero-emission vehicles by 2035, with a major focus on EVs.

Toyota's domestic rival Honda Motor unveiled its own plans for China at the Shanghai show on Monday. The automaker said it will launch 10 own-brand EV models in the country in the next five years, having so far only sold joint-venture models there, and introduced a prototype of the first of those models, which is slated to go on sale next spring.

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