Why South Africa is still not ready for electric cars: Toyota boss

Toyota is betting big on electric vehicles globally, but it will be a while before they become commonplace in South Africa, says the president of Toyota South Motors Andrew Kirby.

Key to this is government incentives which are needed in South Africa to encourage the adoption of new energy vehicles as well as make the cost attractive to the local market, he said at a media briefing in Johannesburg on Thursday (10 February).

He added that the local market is not yet conducive for the full adoption of Battery Electric Vehicles (BEVs), citing infrastructural shortcomings related to energy generation as well as high import duties.

“Last year, the Department of Trade, Industry and Competition published a Green Paper on incentivising the local manufacture and purchase of new energy vehicles.

“It is hoped that the policy would kick off soon after the white paper has been adopted in due course,” he said.

Despite these hurdles, Toyota is bullish on the local industry and the future of electric cars. In December 2021, the group announced that it will invest approximately $70 billion globally in electrified vehicles, including Hybrid-petrol Vehicles, Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicles, Fuel Cell Electric Vehicles and Battery Electric Vehicles (BEV).

Toyota plans to roll out 30 BEV models by 2030, while its subsidiary Lexus is aiming for 100% BEV sales globally by 2035.

“We believe in battery electric vehicles and we’re investing heavily in them, but we also believe that the way to reduce more carbon emissions sooner is to employ diverse solutions,” said chief scientist of Toyota Motor Corporation Dr Gill Pratt.

This is particularly important for mitigating climate change because CO2 emissions accumulate globally and remain in the atmosphere for a long time, he said.

“The greatest reason Toyota believes we should diversify our portfolio of solutions to climate change is that a diverse approach is more likely to work.”

2022 car sales

According to Kirby, total vehicle sales for 2022 will continue the post-lockdown recovery and settle at 540,000 at the end of the year.

“The breakdown for this year’s forecast includes 334 800 Passenger models, 178 198 Light Commercial Vehicles (LCV) as well as a total of 27 002 Medium and Heavy vehicles,” said Kirby.

“The extrapolation (540,000 units) is based on a variety of socio-economic factors that do not bode well for the local motor industry, including the rising interest rate cycle, the strain taken by the agricultural sector due to heavy rainfall, the muted tourism recovery as well as possible market instability owing to ANC leadership elections and NBF wage negotiations.”

He concluded that his forecast was ‘constrained’ and that the industry could even sell more vehicles if the economy performed better than expected or if issues in the automotive supply chain were to be resolved.


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Why South Africa is still not ready for electric cars: Toyota boss