...Toyota long maintained skepticism about EVs in favor of the hybrid technology pioneered by its flagship Prius, as well as the potential for hydrogen fuel cells. But the automaker finally joined the EV race late last year when President Akio Toyoda put himself in charge of a new EV Business Planning Department.
The "in-house venture company" is run by four people, including Toyoda. The others come from Toyota Group suppliers Aisin Seiki Co., Denso Corp. and Toyota Industries Corp.
Toyota is expected to start selling the new EVs in China within the next few years.
The company also has said that in the early 2020s, it intends to introduce vehicles with next-generation solid-state batteries, which enable faster charging and longer range.
The North American sourcing investigation also allows Toyota to evaluate competitors, new technologies and suppliers with which the automaker is not working, said Shinichi Yasui, president of Toyota Motor Engineering & Manufacturing for North America and the company's regional r&d chief.
Toyota executives did not identify which suppliers it is examining in North America. But the companies are typically big global players that can deliver a range of systems, Young said.
The key is finding suppliers in North America that can match Toyota's vehicle design structure, Young said. Most of Toyota's vehicles were developed in Japan, making their architectures geared more toward Japanese suppliers than international ones.
"Something needs to change in the system or we will have to work with the supplier to level-up their capability here," Young said. "We're looking at it on a part-by-part basis."
Toyota's search comes amid blossoming supplier investment in an electrified future.
This month, Chinese private investment group GSR Capital said it would buy Nissan Motor Co.'s electric vehicle battery business, including its battery pack plant in Smyrna, Tenn. That move is seen as freeing the factory to deliver to a wider range of customers across the continent.
And in February, Honda Motor Co. announced plans to form a joint venture with Hitachi Automotive Systems to make electric motors, some at Hitachi plants in Kentucky.
Meanwhile, LG Chem is expanding its EV battery plant in Holland, Mich. LG Chem supplies such North American customers as General Motors, Ford and Fiat Chrysler.