How the World’s Most Valuable Carmaker Fell Perilously Behind on Electric Vehicles

If there’s one thing Toyota and its executives have made clear over the past 20 or so years, it’s that they aren’t too keen on electric vehicles. This may seem at odds

with the perception of the automaker as a green-car pioneer. As Toyota likes to point out, its 1997 introduction of the Prius was a watershed moment, the first mass-produced

hybrid battery-and-gas vehicle option for environmentally conscious drivers, which spurred competitors like General Motors and Honda to get their own electrified motors to

market. Yet more than 25 years later, Toyota has largely remained stuck in gear. The automotive giant had invested in Tesla back in 2010 to spur EV development, only to

begin selling off its Tesla shares a few years later. It also sold 100 models of a battery-powered microcar in 2012, before “discontinu[ing] it due to concerns over the limits of

EVs,” as Reuters reported. Only recently has Toyota appeared to take EVs seriously. In December, the company announced a plan to launch five new zero-emission models in the

European market by 2026; earlier this month, the company introduced a fully battery-powered retro concept car alongside a new hybrid model at the Tokyo Auto Salon. But if you want

to buy an EV from Toyota right now, the company only offers one of them, and sales are miniscule. Competitors like Hyundai are seizing on Toyota’s slowness on EVs to play up their

own clean-car successes, cutting into the Japanese juggernaut’s domination of the global automotive market.