Toyota Yet Again Slams Tesla, This Time in Auto-Dealer Speech. Will The Two Automakers Ever Make Up?

There was a time, not so long ago when Tesla and Toyota were best buddies. With $110 million invested in the Californian firm that made electric cars sexy, Toyota relied on Tesla to produce an all-electric drivetrain for its second-generation RAV4 EV crossover, and Tesla reciprocated by presenting Toyota CEO Akio Toyoda with his very own Radiant Red 2011 Tesla Roadster Sport. The relationship between Toyoda and Tesla CEO Elon Musk looked so good, some even called it a bromance.

For a while, Toyota and Tesla were so friendly that Tesla CEO Elon Musk gave Toyota CEO Akido

For a while, Toyota and Tesla were so friendly that Tesla CEO Elon Musk gave Toyota CEO Akio Toyoda his very own Tesla Roadster.

Today, things couldn’t be any more different. In addition to dropping production of the RAV4 EV as soon as it met the required quota set by Californian ZEV mandates, Toyota has become almost an arch nemesis of Tesla, selling all of its Tesla stock, promoting its hydrogen fuel cell technology as the only logical fuel of the future, and taking great pains to dismiss electric cars at every opportunity. And that’s before we even examine the two blatantly anti-electric ads from its luxury brand Lexus.

Now one of Toyota’s better-known EV skeptics, senior vice president for U.S. operations, Bob Carter, has been caught openly mocking its former electric car partner for putting “all its eggs in one basket” on drivetrain technology during a speech in San Francisco last weekend.

Speaking at the 2015 J.D. Power Automotive Summit, Carter’s speech was intended to present auto dealers with an overview of Toyota’s plans for the year, with information about its latest products, planned launches and sales figures for the previous year.

Toyota's Bob Carter says Tesla has all its eggs in one basket. That's not like Toyota's investment in Hydrogen now, is it?

Toyota’s Bob Carter says Tesla has all its eggs in one basket. That’s not like Toyota’s investment in Hydrogen now, is it?

As Ward’s Auto (Via GreenCarReports) notes however, Carter went off-script during the presentation, making comments in response to Elon Musk’s long-held belief that hydrogen fuel cell vehicles should be called ‘fool-cell’ vehicles due to their relative inefficiencies and high costs compared to battery electric cars.

“If I had all my eggs in one basket, I might be making the same comments,” Carter is quoted as having said by Wards Auto, but we — and our friends at GreenCarReports note that phrase is absent from the official Toyota transcript of the speech.

Toyota’s official version stops short of playground comebacks.

“And unlike other electric cars with limited range and long recharge times,” the script reads. “Mirai can be re-fueled in three to five minutes and travel about 300 miles on a single fill-up. In other words… the Toyota Fuel Cell System in the new Mirai… is simply… a better battery.”

Continuing his preview of the Mirai to the assembled audience, Carter detailed Toyota’s recent production increase in Mirai Fuel Cell Sedan production in its home market of Japan, and promised great things of the Mirai when it goes on sale in the U.S. later this year.

Bob Carter says there are 16,000 'hand-raisers' in the U.S. interested in the Mirai. But that's not the same as reservations.

Bob Carter says there are 16,000 ‘hand-raisers’ in the U.S. interested in the Mirai. But that’s not the same as reservations.

“We already had 16,000 hand-raisers tell us they want a [Toyota] Mirai in their own driveway,” he said.

We feel obliged at this point to note that hand-raisers doesn’t mean confirmed orders. Much like the early days of the Nissan LEAF and Chevrolet Volt, the term ‘hand-raisers’ refers to people who have currently placed their name on a waiting or mailing list so that they can receive more information on Mirai fuel cell sedan when it nears its debut later this year. Until those people have test-driven the car, talked about financing and signed an order form, those 16,000 people can walk away without spending a dime.

As for the Tesla/Toyota spat? At worse, we think it makes Toyota out to be overly cocky about its fuel cell technology, a technology which requires a lot of infrastructure investment to truly become usable in the mainstream world. Either that or genuinely scared by the Californian company.

Will either firm ever make up? How will the spat between electric and hydrogen fuel cell vehicles end? And will the two companies ever happily coexist side by side again? And isn’t Toyota doing the same thing with hydrogen that Tesla is with electric: using it as the fuel choice of the future, the fuel on which all of its future hopes are built?

Leave your thoughts in the Comments below.


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  • MEroller

    Indeed it sounds very much like-for-like with Toyota putting all their eggs in the fuel-cell basket at the moment, while Tesla Motors never had anything but battery-electric on their agenda, it is their raison d’u00eatre. nTherefore Toyota appears to be the true one-sided single-basket “fool” at the moment. Though that is of course not really true. I am 100% sure there are hundreds of Toyota engineers out there that cringe at each new pro-fuel-cell anti-battery-electric rhetoric from their sales department and even their CEO, thus openly down-rating their own everyday work on alternative propulsion and fuel concepts 🙁

    • vdiv

      Hopefully those Toyota engineers can get a more fulfilling job at Mitsubishi. I hate it when companies promote their golden child at the expense of the rest busting their chops, especially when they do it in public. I figure that if knock on wood I have a few more decades to live and a few more cars to buy that none of them will be a Toyota.nnnSo Bob, what were you saying again?

  • Great article, Nikki. Keep up the good work and giving readers an objective, rational rundown of the situation.

  • Don Denesiuk

    A wise man once said ” fuel cell is so bull s**t”. ( nI couldn’t agree more.nFirst principle physics of efficiency, safety considerations, production and distribution issues all doom hydrogen as a motive fuel.

    • Marleychil

      Toyota is continuing down this path, because of a loss of face. Pride has affected a business decision. Ignorance, arrogance and pride comes before the fall. Expect to regain the #1 position with the Chevy Bolt drawing buyers into their showrooms. nnnThe EV revolution has begun. These snide attack and the EV revolution rejection is going to cost them a greater loss of face and revenues. “The revolution will not be televised.”

  • Spitch C

    Toyota keeps their eggs in one basket. The one that belongs to the oil companies who are producing hydrogen. Hydrogen would cost as much as gasoline. Toyota’s eggs are rotten. Looser. No vision.

    • Marleychil

      FCV is a EV hybrid. Toyota is the company putting their eggs in one basket. They are content making hybrids. Hybrid are only temporary not revolutionary. Hybrids lose because EVs Rule.nEV RULES for the EV Revolution.

  • CDspeed

    Elon has his eggs in the solar, and space industries too, everytime I hear about a rocket launch on the morning news I hear “SpaceX” or “Dragon Capsule” mentioned, and I think to myself, “there’s Elon at work again”.

  • Is a heat pump not an optional extra as well? I was quite disappointed by that given the high starting price – presuming the standard heater vs heat pump difference is as substatial as the leaf… nnValue for money wise the leaf seems to win to me. Although I prefer the look of the golf and imagine – as you say in the review – the driving experience is better….

  • Raphael Sturm

    In my opinion Fuel Cell could work as well as a BEV does, it has almost he same problems, price, range, infrastructure and all of them can be solved. But at todays point, hydrogen is about 3-4 times more expensive to run than BEV. And toyota can not keep up with paying the h2 bill for millions of cars, like they do with the mirai. That said FC could be the future, but it has to take bigger steps in more directions to compete.

  • Marleychil

    The EV evolution support BEV and battery manufacturer commitment to responsibly recycle or repurpose end of life Batteries.– Best choicennAbove is the Revolution-Below is the Evolution-“The Revolution will not be Televised” Hybrid lose because EV RULES.nnThe EV Revolution supports Hydrogen Technology – However not for cars because (FCV) requires a costly infrastructure, a higher manufacturing cost, has higher maintenance cost, inefficiencies in fuel production and delivery, vehicle owner remains tied to higher fuel cost. The only benefit is burnt fuel produces zero emission. FCV is a EV hybrid.nnThe EV Revolution recognizes Hybrid plug-in – as a Evolution to take advantage of existing infrastructure or more efficient or cleaner forms of fuel. Higher cost to maintain ,higher manufacturing cost, owner remain tied to higher fuel cost. – Uses electricity for short commutes. – Solution is only temporary – Not Revolutionary.nnThe EV Revolution sees Hybrid – as a step in Evolution that take advantage of existing infrastructure or more efficient or cleaner forms of fuel. Higher manufacturing cost higher cost to maintain, owner remain tied to higher fuel cost, only temporary – Not Revolutionary.nnBEV for the EV Revolution. Pay for the Evolution or Jump to the Revolution.

  • D. Harrower

    Pot, meet kettle. Toyota has a lot of nerve accusing Tesla of putting all their eggs in one basket when that’s exactly what Toyota’s doing – when they’re not begging for government handouts to help them make their plan for the future the slightest bit viable, that is.