You can’t drive a truck without gasoline, and you have to use a lot of it to get down the road, so it may seem a bit odd that Press was talking about conservation when his company was poised to sell thousands of bigger, badder, fuel sucking trucks.
Thank goodness for the Prius.
Despite selling large suvs and trucks, Toyota has arguably been one of the most responsible automakers when it comes to finding another way to get their vehicles down the road. In Toyota’s case, the road is being paved by billions of research and development dollars, which made his speech to open the show something more than empty words from a stumping politician or a business leader in search of a positive image.
According to Press, now is the time to do something about it, because the auto business is better than ever and primed to grow exponentially. He said that while Toyota anticipates a modest industry-wide sales growth to $17.2 million for 2006, the future is bringing with it a golden era, as baby boomers move into a new buying phase and younger generations start flexing their purchasing power. Press warned that such growth was shadowed by the fact that there are three-fourths of a billion cars on the planet today, a number that is growing quickly. All those cars need more oil, of course, and Press said that by the year 2025 there would be a 40 percent increase in demand for fossil fuel. The expansion of cars, said Press, underpinned a critical issue: the dependency on oil and the development of alternative energy to curb the world's growing demand.
"Imagine that the world's oil reserves are Mt. Fuji," said Press. "We've gone through about four Mt. Fujis so far, and experts say that there might be four and a half left." Press touched on issues raised in this month's State of the Union address, applauding the president's need to reduce the world's oil dependency, and beseeching the automotive world to work together to become part of the solution. Automakers can do this, Press stressed, by actively pursue emerging technologies, such as hybrid powertrains, ethanol or flex fuel vehicles, hydrogen and diesel engines.
Understandably, Press was high on the development of hybrids – considering the success Toyota has had with the Prius, and likely will have with the new 2007 Camry Hybrid -- noting that the electric part of a hybrid powertrain can be mated to any type of engine – gasoline, diesel, or ethanol, thus significantly boosting fuel efficiency in any engine. He said that diesel was an emerging alternative, as technology is paving the way for cleaner burning engines, though took a small swipe at the trend-du-jour, ethanol, saying that is wasn’t clear what the long term benefits would be, and that the nation did not have enough ethanol-friendly filling stations, pointing out that California had just one station. Ford and General Motors would probably disagree with that assessment, as both domestic automakers are working to prove that ethanol, or E85 vehicles, provide significant gasoline reduction. Ford and General Motors have launched research programs, largely based in the Midwest, and are debuting cars that feature E85 compatibility. An E85 car can run on either ethanol or gasoline.