TOKYO — The common story among Japanese automakers at last week's Tokyo Motor Show was their lockstep focus on electric vehicles. Nearly every make had some sort of EV on hand.
But a stark divide is also becoming apparent.
In one camp are the brands that focused merely on creating EV models; in the other, those that are now focusing on how to create real EV business models.
Toyota Motor Corp. and Honda Motor Co., in particular, broke from the pack with big-picture approaches to the big question confronting the industry: How can automakers make money as rivals race to rush out costly battery-powered cars that have yet to generate any profits?
Their answer is to focus less on individual cars and more on the ecosystem around them.
That means rolling out personal mobility devices, branching into "mobility as a service" fleets, propagating charging networks and expanding maintenance businesses. Also on tap are new ways of using and recycling the expensive batteries for these vehicles and gadgets.
The goal is bigger scale, lower cost, new revenue and, automakers hope, a quicker path to profitability. Driving the shift is the uncomfortable realization that selling EVs the traditional way just won't cut it.