TOKYO -- As Japanese automakers wait for the right time to take electric vehicles to China, they risk letting more aggressive Western rivals beat them to the punch.
Their hesitation stems partly from the Chinese government raising standards for environmentally friendly vehicles in a manner designed to squeeze out competitors.
Toyota Motor detailed last autumn its preparations for introducing electric cars in China. It is developing green offerings in a number of categories, including plug-in hybrids due out next year in addition to fuel cell vehicles. Toyota is also strengthening local product development functions geared toward electrics. Battery-testing and other facilities will open in China starting in late 2018.
But Toyota has yet to reveal a time frame for a Chinese electric-vehicle launch.
Honda Motor aims to start selling plug-in hybrids in China by 2020 and is teaming up with Hitachi Automotive Systems to build motors there. But in electrics, the automaker is still weighing its options.
Generous subsidies for eco-car purchases nudged Chinese automakers into the electric-vehicle arena, now the venue of stiff price competition. Nissan Motor launched the Leaf-based Venucia e30 in China back in 2014 and is now looking at releasing a new model costing 20-30% less.