TOKYO - Toyota Motor Corp. takes hybrid and fuel cell vehicles so seriously it has created an executive vice presidency to handle them.
Masatami Takimoto, 59, was named executive vice president for powertrains and quality June 23. His duties will include development of hybrids and fuel cells.
Another executive vice president, Kazuo Okamoto, 61, was assigned to oversee product development, design and vehicle engineering.
Previously, one executive was in charge of all of Toyota's engineering except for matters involving production.
Takimoto has led the powertrain development group since 2003. His team worked on the hybrid system of the Lexus RX 400h and Toyota Highlander.
Hybrids use a gasoline engine and electric motor to power the wheels. Fuel cells use hydrogen fuel to create electricity.
Toyota plans to sell 1 million hybrid vehicles globally but has declined to say when it expects to reach that goal. Last year Toyota says it sold 134,690 hybrid vehicles in global markets. For the first five months of this year, hybrid sales surged 58.4 percent from a year ago to 82,580, the company says.
The 1 million sales plan will require cutting the cost and size of hybrid powertrains, Takimoto says. Small economy cars such as the Corolla and Yaris are poor choices for hybrid powertrains, he says, because customers won't pay premium price for hybrid versions of budget cars.
He says: "We're looking at a car above the Prius."