Toyota heads to GA under pressure from climate pension funds

TOKYO (Reuters) – Toyota Motor Corp heads to its annual general meeting on Wednesday under fire from criticism from New York City and Danish pension funds for its commitment to battery-powered vehicles and lobbying on climate policy.

Once a darling of environmentalists for the Prius hybrid model it popularized more than two decades ago, the Japanese automaker has more recently drawn criticism from green investors who say it’s been slow to embrace gasoline-powered vehicles. battery.

They also say his lobbying activities are helping to undermine the transition to battery electric vehicles. Energy and climate think tank InfluenceMap ranked it worst among major automakers for its climate policy lobbying record, which includes public statements and interaction with governments.

“We are extremely concerned that Toyota’s lobbying activities are misaligned with its climate goals and electric vehicle strategy,” New York City Comptroller Brad Lander said in a statement before the announcement. meeting of shareholders.

Lander oversees a pension system with $253 billion in assets under management, including about $140 million in Toyota stock.

“Toyota’s approach puts it at a competitive disadvantage compared to its peers, who have shown a much greater commitment to the transition to battery electric vehicles,” he said.

Last year, Toyota committed 8 trillion yen ($60 billion) to electrify its cars by 2030, half of which is earmarked for developing battery-electric vehicles. Still, he expects annual sales of these cars to reach just 3.5 million vehicles by the end of the decade, about a third of current sales.

He says hybrids make sense in markets where the infrastructure isn’t ready to support a faster transition to battery-powered vehicles.

In a statement, Toyota said national governments and policies play a crucial role in achieving carbon neutrality by 2050 and promoting electrified vehicles (EVs) globally, and that was committed to ensuring that national policies, societal needs, technological advances and customer needs were all on point. in the same direction as far as possible.

“Toyota says there will be a need for a range of technologies in the future and their lobbying is directly trying to create a world where that is,” said Ben Youriev of InfluenceMap, the think tank.

Last year, Toyota refused to join a pledge signed by six major automakers, including General Motors Co and Ford Motor Co, to phase out fossil fuel cars by 2040, saying all parts of the world would not be ready to make the transition by then.

He faced intense scrutiny in 2019 when he sided with then-US President Donald Trump’s efforts to block California from setting its own energy efficiency rules. He later dropped that support.

Some 100,000 people have signed an online petition against Toyota lobbying.

Danish pension fund AkademikerPension submitted questions to the shareholders’ meeting asking Toyota to refrain from public statements and government lobbying that would undermine the move to full electrification.

“What we fear is that Toyota will be left behind with its current electric vehicle targets which are not as ambitious as most of its competitors and that its lobbying activities will also be a growing source of risk. “, said Anders Schelde, chief investment officer of the fund. Reuters.

AkademikerPension has $19.3 billion in assets under management and has sold its stake in Toyota. He owns 17 million Danish kroner ($2.4 million) worth of shares, down about 85% from a year earlier.

($1 = 7.1246 Danish kroner)

(Reporting by David Dolan; Additional reporting by Maki Shiraki; Editing by Mark Potter)

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