‘Send my love, prayers to the Filipino people’–Akio Toyoda


TOYODA (fifth from left), Mitsubishi Motors Corp. president Osamu Masuko and the other leaders of Jama grace the press preview of the 43rd Tokyo Motor Show in Tokyo, Japan. photo by arlan reyes

TOYODA with the author

He does not forget, and he knows how to pay back kindness.

Akio Toyoda, chair of the Japan Automobile Manufacturers Association (Jama) and the president of Toyota Motor Corp. (TMC), said he would never forget when Filipinos responded to the call for help of the earthquake victims in Japan in 2011. He stressed that he has many Filipino friends.

Toyoda, the descendant of Sakichi Toyoda who established Toyoda Automatic Loom Works which eventually evolved to become the world’s leading auto manufacturer, told Inquirer Motoring that the news about the devastation by Supertyphoon “Yolanda” (international name: “Haiyan”) across the central Philippines early this November had “deeply affected” him.

TOYOTA’S vintage, jet-powered hybrid sports car at the Toyota Megaweb in Tokyo

Toyoda was visiting the Lexus RC 300h booth at the 43rd Tokyo Motor Show Nov. 20 when this writer chanced upon the man himself. He handed over a gray business card, which indicated that he was the chief branding officer and master driver of Lexus International.

Upon learning that the person he gave the card to was a Filipino, Toyoda said, “Send my love and prayers to the Filipino people.”

It was surprising to see Toyoda, the 44th most powerful man in the world (according to Forbes Magazine), quietly weaving his way around the Tokyo Big Sight. There were speculations a day before that he wouldn’t be able to attend the Nov. 20 opening due to his hectic schedule as Jama chair.

Friendship ties

THE PRIUS PHV (plug-in hybrid) also at the Megaweb

“We’ve been doing business in the Philippines for a long time, together with Metrobank, and we have many friends. And friends always care when something happens. This time we pray for the Philippines and our friends, and I hope as soon as possible to come back.”

He said most Japanese companies donated not just because they had businesses in the Philippines, but more so because these companies “have lots of friends there.”

“Donations are just one form of support,” he quipped.

Akio Toyoda was born in 1956. He graduated from Keio University with a degree in law and joined Toyota in 1984. He has served in various roles, such as executive vice president at New United Motor Manufacturing Inc. In 2009, he became president of TMC, a position he still holds today.

Jama has arranged for the harmonizing of technical regulations and mutual recognition of approval among Asean partners regarding safety and environmental regulations. Part of it includes the societal demands on automobile performance aimed at addressing global warming and air pollution issues as well as enhancing safety for passengers and pedestrians on a global scale. In order to best respond to these increasing demands, the harmonious regulations for vehicles and parts that differ between countries, as well as the promotion of the mutual worldwide recognition of motor vehicles and parts, are becoming more and more important.

Air quality

THE LEXUS hybrid RC 300h

THE LEXUS hybrid RC 300h

To promote the improvement of air quality in Asean countries, Jama fuel experts  drafted specifications for Euro 4 fuels along with biofuel specifications for both ethanol and FAME4 that take into consideration Southeast Asian climates and vehicle usage.

Jama also cited its efforts to help counter global warming and improve air quality, with Japan’s automakers continuously developing, and promoting the ownership of, vehicles with reduced environmental impact. In turn, this has led to steadily growing interest in such vehicles among the public. Japan’s shipments of all types of eco-friendly vehicles in 2011 totaled 4,479,435 units (up 905,330 units, or 25.3 percent, from 2010). Over 80 percent of those shipments comprised vehicles whose fuel efficiency met or surpassed 2010 standards and whose exhaust emissions were down by 75 percent compared to 2005 standards, thereby qualifying them for a four-star rating, signifying top performance in fuel-efficient/low-emission vehicle classification.

Demand for hybrid cars

Meanwhile, Toyota  sees the demand for hybrid cars rising in the next few years due to the carbon dioxide emission regulations worldwide.

THE GAZOO Racing version of the Prius G. Photos by Tessa Salazar

“The purpose of Toyota to deploy hybrid vehicles all over the world is to help protect the environment. That is the essence of the hybrid vehicle,” said Shizuo Abe, executive general manager of TMC’s hybrid vehicle engineering management.

Toyota—the front-runner in the global hybrid vehicle market—announced at the Tokyo Motor Show that it would produce a mass-produced fuel-cell car by 2015 in Japan and 2016 in the United States.

Abe said that each original equipment manufacturer should have an allocated proportion for increased hybrid vehicle production.

34 million tons  fewer

As of March this year, over 5 million Toyota hybrid vehicles have been sold worldwide since they were introduced 16 years ago. The automotive giant estimates that its global fleet of nearly 20 hybrid brands (including one plug-in “hybrid”) has resulted in approximately 34 million fewer tons of carbon dioxide emissions than those produced by their full fossil fuel-powered counterparts.

The company also estimates its hybrids have saved their owners more than 3 billion gallons of gasoline, compared to gasoline-only-powered vehicles.

Toyota chief engineers addressed criticisms aimed at energy-efficient vehicles.

Toyota chief engineer Kouji Toyoshima told Inquirer Motoring in May that the nickel metal hydride batteries used for their hybrids are recycled and reused. These batteries are recovered worldwide so these can be fully utilized again.

Toyoshima stressed that Toyota, particularly in Japan, has been taking the initiative to achieve full reuse and recycling of all batteries. The system of recycling/reusing batteries is also present in the United States.

Another engineer, managing officer for the product planning group Satoshi Ogiso, revealed that their hybrids’ projected CO2 emissions have all been figured out. “Our data shows that the total carbon dioxide production of hybrid vehicles is roughly more than 35 percent smaller than the CO2 production of conventional cars; and that after 100,000 kilometers on the odometer, the total carbon footprint is up to 35 percent smaller than conventional cars,” he said.

Ogiso added that nickel (a component of hybrid batteries) is a fully recyclable material and that the technology to improve the hybrids’ battery system is being developed.

Next-gen battery system

“Toyota is now developing the next-generation battery system for the next-generation hybrid, but 10 years from now, nickel metal hydride and lithium ion will be the technology in use for the mass production of batteries,” he said.

Abe said last week that the recycling system is important both in Japan and North America. Recycling centers, he said, should be promoted more aggressively.

“Lithium ion itself is recyclable, but just a few years since the launch of the lithium ion batteries. The duration is still short. The market for recycling lithium ion battery has not been established yet, but in the future I think that would be established,” he said.

He added that “for the hybrid vehicle to be mainstream by 2025, we should just make our hybrid vehicles much more attractive to the customers, easy to use, easy to drive. Attractive not only in appearance, but more so the cost of the vehicle especially in the emerging markets.”

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