Foreign automakers see their chance in Japan with electric vehicles

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Toyota Motor Corporation’s bZ models are pictured after a briefing on the company’s battery electric vehicle strategies in Tokyo, Japan, December 14, 2021. REUTERS/Kim Kyung-Hoon

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TOKYO, Feb 17 (Reuters) – Narumi Abe did something still rare in Japan in September: she bought a foreign car, choosing a Peugeot e-208 over a Honda e-car, she said. said, the Peugeot can travel longer distances between charges.

Abe has joined a small but growing group of Japanese drivers who eschew house brands for foreign battery-electric vehicles (EVs).

While the trend is unlikely to make a big dent in overall sales, it does highlight the perception that many domestic automakers have been slower to adopt battery-electric vehicles, focusing instead on hybrids, hydrogen fuel cells and alternative fuels for internal combustion engines.

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“I wanted to buy something that would be best for the environment,” said the 30-year-old, who runs a business in Tokyo selling agricultural products.

Toyota has committed 8 trillion yen ($69 billion) to electrification through 2030 and expects to sell around 3.5 million battery electric vehicles globally by then. That’s about a third of Toyota’s current annual auto sales.

Germany’s Volkswagen AG (VOWG_p.DE) predicts that half of its cars will be battery electric vehicles by then.

Nine tenths of the five million cars sold each year in Japan come from domestic companies such as Toyota Motor Corp (7203.T), Honda Motor Co (7267.T) and Nissan Motor Co.

But while overall car sales in Japan, excluding small light vehicles, fell 3.2% last year, sales of overseas models rose 1.7%. Imports of battery electric vehicles nearly tripled to a record 8,610 vehicles, according to the Japan Automobile Importers Association.

Analysts estimate that about half of them were Tesla Inc (TSLA.O) cars. Volkswagen, Europe’s largest automaker, is one of the foreign automakers planning to open a battery-electric vehicle in Japan.

It plans to sell more than a dozen such models in Japan by 2024, including cheaper Audi and Volkswagen sport utility models this year that will target a wider range of consumers, country manager Matthias Schepers said. at a press conference in January.

It expects battery electric vehicles to account for a third of Audi’s sales, or about 10,000 vehicles, in Japan by 2025, he said. The VW Group will expand the installation of fast chargers to 250 of its own showrooms by the end of this year, he said.

Stellantis (STLA.MI), owner of the Peugeot brand acquired by Abe, is also expanding its range in Japan, with two new models going on sale this year.

They are joined by South Korea’s Hyundai Motor Co (005380.KS), which said this month it was returning to Japan 12 years after leaving due to poor sales. Japanese drivers will be able to order its Nexo SUV hydrogen fuel cell EV and Ioniq 5 mid-battery EV from May.

To boost its chances of success this time around, the South Korean company has teamed up with a car-sharing service operated by online social gaming company DeNA Co (2432.T) and insurance company Sompo Holdings. (8630.T) to allow Hyundai owners to lease their zero-emission cars.

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Reporting by Maki Shiraki, writing by Tim Kelly; Editing by David Dolan and Neil Fullick

Our standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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