Earlier this month, Toyota announced it would be giving public access to its more than 24,000 patents related to electric vehicle technology. What’s more, the Japanese automaker wants to become a tier 2 supplier of hybrid technologies to companies around the world.
This week, in speech at Tsinghua University, Chief Executive Akio Toyoda revealed that Toyota is founding a research institute at the university in Beijing to study hydrogen fuel-cell powertrains and other green forms of vehicle propulsion, according to a Reuters report. The explicit goal of the work will be to reduce China’s environmental problems as well as to reduce traffic fatalities in the country.
It’s not entirely altruistic, Toyota’s desires to ease China’s environmental problems. The carmaker also wants to grow its footprint in the country, including its manufacturing and distribution chains.
It’s reasonable to assume that Toyota wishes to expand in China because it sees opportunity in China’s ever-growing car market. In fact, China’s total retail vehicle sales figures are estimated to grow by more than nine million units by the end of 2020, totaling more than an anticipated 38.2 million vehicles that year.
It’s no wonder that Toyota wishes to ingratiate itself with both Chinese party officials and the public there. Will its efforts be effective? We’ll have to wait and see. At the same time Chinese car sales climb, so too, is the percentage of the market Chinese automakers’ dominance. By 2020, Chinese brands will account for 46% of all new-car sales in their home country.
So, if Toyota wants to get in before Chinese brands dominate the market, it has to move quickly.