In a speech before the National Press Club in Washington, DC, Jim Press, president of Toyota Motor North America said that Toyota is pursuing a plug-in hybrid vehicle. He also said that the company is strongly considering introducing flex-fuel vehicles for the US.
These remarks came as confirmation of some of the product directions suggested by Toyota’s global president, Katsuaki Watanabe earlier this year. (Earlier post.)
Press noted that since half of all the vehicles bought by Americans are trucks, vans or SUVs, the challenge is to find new ways to make all vehicles more efficient.
We can’t disregard the needs of our earth, nor can we afford to ignore the needs of our customers.
He said automakers must strike a balance in their line-ups from big trucks and SUVs to gas/electric hybrids, clean diesels, flex-fuel vehicles, plug-in hybrids and eventually hydrogen fuel cells.
On hybrids, Press stressed the importance of moving technology forward. Toyota is working toward reducing the size of components by 75% to reduce the extra cost of the hybrid system the better to offer hybrid options throughout its entire lineup of cars and trucks.
Toyota is not backing off its strong commitment to hybrids. We know they are absolutely essential to the future success of this industry no matter what fuel we use or cars we drive. Americans realize hybrids are a simple way to make an important difference in curtailing foreign oil dependence, air pollution and greenhouse gases, all at once.
Press challenged automakers to work with government to set “reasonable” goals to improve fuel economy standards and reduce greenhouse gases in a way that doesn’t severely damage the health of the auto industry, which he said is “one of America’s most vital industries.”
I believe the time is right to enlist the immense talent and might of our industry to help solve some of the key issues resulting from a car-loving world, including oil dependency, air pollution, traffic accidents and global warming.
Press said that the US automotive industry is strong, and predicted that US sales would total about 17 million units this year, making 2006 one of the top sales years ever.
Here in the US, business is steady, and as America’s population approaches 300 million the future is full of promise. The US auto industry is coming off its third best year in history and sales so far this year are nearly on the same pace.
Challenges remain, of course, volatile gas prices, rising interest rates and increasing raw material costs, but overall the industry is successfully responding to the market and is still growing.
He also noted that as automakers continue to sell vehicles on a global basis they would continue to form global alliances.