Toyota and the changing face of personal mobility

By Wright Communications

Toyota is leading the way, globally and nationally in making changes to its vehicles and the way it does business to keep pace with these changes.

"Vehicles have until now always been powered by an internal combustion engine, either petrol or diesel," said Alistair Davis, the CEO of Toyota New Zealand.  "Outside factors - climate change and regulations requiring less or no emissions are starting to have a big impact on the future of our industry."

"Humans have always driven themselves, but advancing technology is making autonomous vehicles a near reality with the added benefit of improved road safety, given most fatalities is caused by human error", said Mr Davis.

Changing habits in large cities are seeing fewer young people owning vehicles and more dependence on mobility as a service options.

"Traditionally vehicles have been sold through dealerships where they are also serviced. But the internet's impact is transforming the retail landscape and the motor industry is no exception", he said.

Some of these changes will not come to fruition until the middle of the century when the majority of new vehicles sold will be electrified in some way, said Mr Davis, who pointed out that many of the new conventional vehicles sold now will still be around for the next 20-25 years. But the changes in the motor industry are starting to gather momentum now.

Toyota and Lexus' self-charging electric hybrid vehicles, which started with the Prius have been around for 20 years and now include Camry, Corolla and the majority of the Lexus model range.

Much of the autonomous technology like active radar cruise control, lane departure warning and autonomous braking are already in many Toyota and Lexus vehicles, said Mr Davis.

Uber is just a first example of car sharing which will become more sophisticated as technology develops.

The 'Drive Happy Project' is Toyota's commitment to transforming the retail experience for its customers to meet the needs of the 21st century.

These changes in mobility will have a big impact on the next 100 years just like the development of the automobile itself has done over the last 100 years, he said. Oil will eventually become less valuable as the demand for it reduces.

"But then there is the potential problem of how to produce electricity cleanly. Hydro, wind and solar production are all expected to grow - an area where New Zealand is well served, but much of the rest of the world is not."

Toyota and some other companies are exploring producing electricity from hydrogen, but it requires more capital-intensive infrastructure than the cost of charging points for plug in hybrid electric or full electric vehicles.

Autonomous vehicles will reduce accidents and give those who cannot self-drive more freedom but will have an impact on the insurance and health industries, said Mr Davis.

"Commuting time will potentially become more productive with the first full autonomous vehicles expected to be on the road in Japan and North America in the next two to three years."

Combining car sharing, mobility as a service, and autonomous vehicles could change urban planning with less requirement for car parking, a greater variety of business models for all industries and potentially less road investment, he said.

New vehicles will be increasingly sold online and dealers will evolve into service centres and used vehicle hubs.

Toyota is a leader in many of these areas. "Our self-charging electric hybrid vehicles - both Toyota and Lexus - use 30 per cent less fuel. The plug-in hybrids save another 30 per cent," said Mr Davis.

"We expect every model in our range to have plug-in hybrid capability by 2025 while avoiding the "range anxiety" of full electric vehicles."

Mobility as a service is developing constantly with tie ups between manufacturers and rental companies/Uber and other similar operations. Toyota has just inked an arrangement with the Avis/Budget Group in North America as one example of the alternative mobility options it is pursuing.

"In New Zealand we have invested through Toyota Financial Services in car sharing software company Mindkin and trials are already underway in Auckland, Wellington and Palmerston North."

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