The carmakers are offering scant details about the plans, but their executives say the rollouts respond to an immutable trend buffeting all makes, large and small. They say many details still are being decided, including what type of vehicles the EVs should be.
Both Mazda and Subaru are only beginning to confront the challenge of how to introduce affordable electric cars that deliver a long enough battery range to compete meaningfully with traditional gas-engine offerings.
To date, both of their electrified drivetrain developments are rudimentary at best, especially when compared with EV rivals General Motors, Nissan and BMW.
Neither Mazda nor Subaru currently sells an EV, though Mazda has a small fleet of electric Mazda2 subcompacts operating around its headquarters in Hiroshima.
Both are also neophytes when it comes to hybrids. Subaru sells only a hybrid version of its Crosstrek crossover. But that product falls short on fuel economy, Subaru's engineers concede, and Subaru is dumping it from the U.S. lineup.
Mazda offers a hybrid version of its Mazda3 small car, but only in Japan. And that car relies on a gasoline-electric system designed and engineered by Toyota.
Toyota itself has played the role of EV skeptic for the past several years. But in November, it conceded publicly that it needs electric vehicles.
Its new business unit will consist of just four people to start. Each of them will come from a separate Toyota Group company in a gambit to accelerate decision-making and get the cars to market quickly. One member will come from Toyota Motor, the others from key Toyota suppliers, Toyota Industries Corp., Aisin Seiki Co. and Denso Corp.
Toyota CEO Akio Toyoda said in a Nov. 17 release announcing the group that its small size is intended to permit "unconventional work processes" in a bid to accelerate new products and get them onto the market.
"As a venture company that will specialize in its field and embrace speed in its approach to work, it is my hope that it will serve as a pulling force for innovation," Toyoda said in the statement.
Toyota emphasized that it remains committed to developing a range of alternative-powertrain technologies, including hydrogen fuel cell vehicles, which it called the "ultimate eco-car."
But echoing comments made the previous week by CFO Takahiko Ijichi, Toyota's announcement said the company -- which doesn't have a single electric car in its lineup nor a publicized timeline for introducing one -- must react to changing regulations.
"Differing energy and infrastructure issues around the world and the rapid strengthening of regulations aimed at increasing the use of zero-emission vehicles have heightened the need for product lineups that can respond to various situations," the company said.