TOKYO -- Japanese automakers that never seemed interested in electric vehicles before are suddenly very interested.
Mazda and Subaru -- two of the industry's smallest players -- both now say they will launch EVs within five years, responding to regulatory pressure to roll out the expensive technology despite having hardly any electrified offerings on the road.
At the same time, Toyota Motor Corp. -- which until now has passed on EVs in favor of its pioneering pursuit of hydrogen fuel cell vehicles -- says it will launch an "in-house venture company" next month to start developing battery-powered eco-cars in a speedy, innovative way.
The three unrelated corporate moves indicate a new enthusiasm for EVs, despite their lackluster sales in the U.S. A growing number of automakers are embracing EVs as a solution to increasingly demanding emissions and fuel economy regulations around the world. But the Japanese industry's plans also signal a growing confidence that EVs will be accepted by more consumers around the world in the future.
"The overall industry is now shifting its electrification focus toward EVs," says Yasuyuki Yoshinaga, CEO of Fuji Heavy Industries, the company manufacturing Subaru cars. "We are in the age where we cannot just go on launching EVs only as regulation compliance cars."
Mazda will launch its EV in 2019, and Subaru's will follow in 2021.