Toyota chairman calls for 5m US hybrids by end of 2016
Uchimayada, who became chairman in June, is best known as the leader of the project to develop the original Prius in the late 1990s. The company has since sold five million hybrids globally, of which three million are the Prius.
Speaking to the Economic Club of Washington, D.C., he said: ‘Some people say hybrid vehicles such as the Prius are only a bridge to the future. But we think it could be a long bridge and a very sturdy one. There are many more gains we can achieve with hybrids.’
But, he added, tough goals were needed. ‘Back in 1993, my group was supposed to come up with a car for the 21st Century. My team proposed to top management that we design a vehicle that would achieve one and a half times better fuel consumption. We thought that was extremely ambitious. But top management told us, “Double it. You are not being ambitious enough. You should think about the century ahead.”
‘When we showed the first concept model at the Tokyo Motor Show in the fall of 1995, we failed to make the prototype actually function. Can you imagine the agony we endured? For 49 days in November through December, the car did not move an inch. I could not sleep very well during that period. Finally, near the end of the year, we got the car to run–but only for 500 meters! We kept developing the vehicle and reached the launch goal in December 1997.
‘In each of the previous moves to a new generation, we achieved a 10 percent increase in mileage per gallon. We are committed to beating that record this time,’ he said. ‘It's only when we put ourselves under the same kind of intense pressure we faced in developing the Prius that we can achieve great goals. That's what it takes. I want our industry to achieve this goal."