Time to pick sides. Again.
Not long ago, automakers faced a tough choice: side with California or the Trump administration for future emissions standards. California, a longtime proponent and trendsetter for environmental legislation, wanted to set its own regulations as it has done so for years. But this time was different because Gov. Gavin Newsom signed an executive order banning sales of new ICE-engined vehicles after 2035. The federal government and the EPA vowed to fight that with its own set of more lenient rules. Automakers had to choose sides.
Ford, Honda, BMW, Volkswagen, and Volvo all sided with California. Hedging their bets Trump would be reelected, General Motors, Fiat Chrysler (now Stellantis), Toyota, and 10 other smaller automakers, took sides with the feds. Only weeks after Biden was sworn in did GM commit itself to an all-electric future and FCA became Stellantis whose European CEO vows to build more EVs. But what about Toyota?
CEO Akio Toyoda, it should be noted, has gone on record stating he's not an EV fan. Turns out the company's investors aren't happy with his approach and are demanding changes.
Reuters reports Toyota has just promised to "review public policy engagement activities through our company and industry associations to confirm they are consistent with the long-term goals of the Paris Agreement." Not only are investors anxious for an EV future, but there's also concern over activist pressure, leading to bad publicity. Let's put it this way: four investment funds totaling $235 billion in assets are pushing Toyota ahead of their annual stakeholder meeting in June to end lobbying efforts against international efforts to rein in global warming.
It's probably no coincidence that last week Toyota confirmed all-electric pickup trucks are coming soon. Could the next-generation Toyota Tacoma and Tundra offer BEV variants? Yes. The reveal of the bZ4X crossover concept, slated to begin production as a 2022 model, is definitely another step in the right direction, but investors want something more: a firm Toyota commitment to stop undermining climate action.
If not, one fund says it'll consider selling its Toyota holding. Toyota says it'll require more time to respond to the fund's plan, but there's no doubt June's meeting will be very interesting.