More Toyota "PR"?
What got the headlines was Toyota’s claim – again – that they’d be the largest producer of cars and trucks, next year. That’s what they said this year, and it didn’t happen. But, their president says next year they’ll surpass General Motors. He was referring to sales, but last year the only record Toyota set was for recalls.
Buried, however, in the Associated Press report was this gem:
“Executive Vice President Masatami Takimoto, who oversees technology, said Toyota had developed the lithium-ion battery to a level that it is almost ready for mass production, although that won’t start until sometime after next year.”
What’s with that? Only a few months ago, Toyota publicly admitted they were nowhere near producing a lithium ion battery for a volume sales vehicle, and that they’d yet to figure out a way to eliminate the inherent fire hazard such batteries create if they should electrically short out internally. (Think Dell laptop with Sony battery.)
The answer is that Toyota is spinning.
The fella that made that statement is the same fella who has been boasting that Toyota already has a lithium ion battery in production. Only, it’s a secret.
According to Takimoto, the lithium ion battery is a dealer option on the Vitz, a subcompact the company sells in Japan. It sold all of 700 with the lithium ion package last year, and it’s been offered since 2003. "We don’t tell everybody about it," Takimoto said. "But we already have our own lithium-ion battery." According to the AP, that’s what Takimoto said last month, explaining that the company doesn’t market the option because it could not meet the demand.
Maybe, it looks like there’s more to the story. Adding the lithium ion battery to the Vitz boosts mileage to 60 mpg from 53 mpg for the regular internal combustion vehicle, but it adds about ten percent to the price. It appears that the lithium ion option is of very limited utility, being more gimmick than benefit, because it is not a “plug-in” capable battery. Rather, the Vitz uses “start-stop” technology and merely uses the lithium ion battery to power restarting.
Clever man, that Takimoto.
He’s the head of Toyota’s technology efforts.
But if Toyota really wants to sell more cars than GM, they should move him to advertising and marketing.