Eco group wants shareholders to prod Toyota on electric

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Australian investors in Toyota are being urged to vote for changes that would see the popular automotive brand launch electric cars sooner and reveal any lobbying against climate action.

Greenpeace Australia Pacific called on local shareholders to support the proposals on Tuesday, one day before Toyota holds its annual general meeting.

The changes already have support from one Australian firm, Future Super, which said they could reveal whether the brand was forward-thinking or had become a “laggard” on climate change.

Three European investment firms introduced the proposals in May, asking the company to create annual reports on its “climate-related lobbying activities” and detail how its actions aligned with the Paris Agreement and the company’s 2050 carbon neutrality goal.

AkademikerPension chief investment officer Anders Schelde said investors were concerned Toyota was missing out on “profits from soaring EV sales” by sticking with petrol, diesel and hybrid vehicles.

The company, which is the highest-selling vehicle manufacturer in Australia, is not expected to release an electric car in Australia until late in 2023 after production of its BZ4X SUV was delayed earlier this year.

It has committed to releasing three electric vehicles in the country over the next three years.

Greenpeace Australia Pacific campaigner Joe Rafalowicz urged local investors to support the changes, saying they were an important way to hold the company to account and determine whether Toyota was “blocking progress on electric vehicles”.

“As transport remains a leading source of climate pollution, the choices major car manufacturers make today are vital to preventing runaway global warming,” he said.

“Yet in the face of all environmental and business sense, Toyota continues to advocate for petrol-powered vehicles, including hybrids, at the expense of electric alternatives.”

Mr Rafalowicz said Australian investors should see the vote as a “real opportunity to pursue climate action” under Toyota’s new leadership, including recently appointed chief executive Koji Sato.

Future Super, which has investments in the automaker, revealed it planned to vote in favour of the changes on Wednesday.

Group chief impact officer Emily Flood said the vote would help shareholders ensure the company was investing in the future of transport.

“Disclosures like this help us identify how companies are responding to the crisis: they are either on the front foot or are going to be laggards,” she said.

“We need Toyota to be focused on responding to our climate reality rather than wasting resources to slow political action – that’s a risk for all their investors.”

Toyota remained Australia’s top-selling car maker with more than 18,000 vehicle sales in May, more than double its nearest competitor, according to the Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries.

The company also claimed the title for the most popular vehicle in Australia for its HiLux ute.