Investors blame Toyota’s Toyoda for questioning combustion car ban

TOKYO, May 10 (Reuters) – Some shareholders of Toyota Motor (7203.T) have criticized its chairman Akio Toyoda for questioning Japan’s plans to ban conventional cars just days after the company said that it revised its climate lobbying and aimed for carbon neutrality by 2050..

The five investors, who collectively have around $ 500 billion in assets under management and spoke exclusively to Reuters, said the automaker risked falling behind competitors who are deploying electric vehicles, while covering others. companies seeking to avoid big changes to meet climate goals.

Japan Toyota signaled a change in its stance on climate change last month when it said it would reconsider its lobbying and be more transparent about the measures it is taking in response to increased pressure from activists and investors .

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Three days later, however, as president of the Association of Japanese Automobile Manufacturers, Toyoda questioned the country’s decision to ban new internal combustion engine vehicles by 2035 in its pursuit of carbon neutrality. .

“What Japan needs to do now is expand its technological options. I think regulations and laws should follow after,” Toyoda said.

“A policy banning gasoline or diesel cars from the start would limit these options and could also cause Japan to lose its strength,” he added.

Investors who welcomed Toyota’s previous lobbying statement said they feared Toyoda might not agree with the plans.

“We are sincerely concerned that Mr. Toyoda does not appear to realize what is at stake here,” said Jens Munch Holst, CEO of AkademikerPension.

The Danish fund told Reuters last month it would consider a shareholders’ resolution or sell its stake in Toyota if there was no change after an “intense” engagement with the company.

A Toyota spokeswoman told Reuters the company couldn’t immediately comment on investor criticism, but would address climate issues later in the week when it announces its results.

The company has said in recent years that electric vehicles will play a bigger role in reducing emissions, but other solutions are expected to be used, such as its successful hybrid or low-sale hydrogen vehicles.

With increasing pressure on automakers to cut emissions, Toyota is scrambling to produce electric vehicles that can compete with models like Tesla (TSLA.O), Volkswagen (VOWG_p.DE), General Motors (GM.N) and Renault (RENA .PA), as well as Chinese startups like Nio (NIO.N) and Xpeng (XPEV.N).

The five investors who spoke to Toyoda’s comments – including Norwegian Storebrand Asset Management, Nordic investor Nordea Asset Management, Church of England Pensions Board and KLP, Norway’s largest pension fund – said Toyota was at risk of falling. ‘weaken its competitiveness.

“As a shareholder of Toyota, we have been actively engaged with the company and have been assured that all of its lobbying activities, including with industry associations, will be reviewed and reported this year,” said Jan Erik Saugestad, CEO of Storebrand Asset Management.

“Full electrification of transportation is vital if we are to meet our climate goals and Toyota should lead the charge on this rather than extending production of new combustion engines and ceding their market share to other companies,” he added.

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Reporting by Aaron Sheldrick; Editing by Pravin Char

Our Standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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Kevin A. Perras