Toyota faces revolt in its ranks over electric vehicles
Australia's top-selling car maker Toyota is facing a green revolt in its ranks after three large investors asked the company to reveal its "climate-related lobbying activities" and claimed it was missing rising electric vehicle sales.
The proposal, issued by three European investment firms, comes one week after Toyota's local sales boss argued it was still "too early" for electric cars to replace petrol and diesel vehicles, and less than three weeks before consultation on Australia's first vehicle emissions limit ends.
Environmental lobby group Greenpeace said the new move showed its own shareholders were concerned about Toyota's approach to zero-emission cars and the company's stance should not be allowed to hold Australian "consumers back from cleaner, more affordable transport".
Representatives from the three investment funds in Denmark, Norway and the Netherlands filed their proposal at Toyota's shareholders' meeting on Wednesday, asking the company to issue annual reports on its "climate-related lobbying activities" that detailed how they align with the Paris Agreement and the company's 2050 carbon neutrality goal.
AkademikerPension chief investment officer Anders Schelde said international investors wanted Toyota to make "concrete policy changes" to deliver zero-emission vehicles.
"From an investment perspective, we're concerned that Toyota is missing out on profits from soaring EV sales, jeopardising its valuable brand and cementing its global laggard status," he said.
APG Asset Management chief information officer Herman Slooijer said the company also had the power to influence other brands within the automotive market.
"Since Toyota is the world's largest car maker, accelerating the company's EV transition is not only crucial for improving its business competitiveness but also for giving a push to the decarbonisation of the entire industry," he said.
Toyota's board recommended shareholders vote against the proposal when it is raised at the company's annual general meeting in June.
Greenpeace Australia Pacific campaigner Joe Rafalowicz said he was disappointed Toyota executives opposed greater transparency, and urged the company to reconsider its approach to electric vehicles.
"Both at home and abroad, Toyota's stubborn insistence on petrol-fuelled cars is holding consumers back from cleaner, more affordable transport," he said.
"Toyota needs to realise that demand for electric vehicles is here and now."
Mr Rafalowicz said he also expected Toyota to oppose an ambitious vehicle emissions target in the federal government's upcoming fuel-efficiency standard rather than follow the lead of countries like New Zealand and the US.
Toyota is yet to launch an electric vehicle in Australia, though its bZ4X SUV is due late in 2023.
Toyota Australia sales head Sean Hanley told AAP the car maker would support the government's fuel-efficiency standard but would argue an emissions limit did not need to rely on electric cars alone.
"We're not against battery-electric vehicles at all... we're simply saying that to get to the future aren't you better off having something today that reduces your CO2 footprint?" he said.
"Battery EVs will play a role as will hybrid vehicles, fuel-cell vehicles and hydrogen fuel-cell electric vehicles, as will synthetic fuels."
The public consultation on Australia's fuel-efficiency standard will continue until May 31. A draft law is expected later this year.