Dedication to hybridisation and the highest level of craftsmanship
Where is the trend for hybrid vehicles the strongest and how alive is it in Central and South Eastern Europe, especially Slovenia?
Gregor Mauko: In the case of hybridisation, the strongest region is Europe, followed by the United States and Japan for both Toyota and Lexus. In Europe, 95% of Lexus sales are hybrids, in the case of Toyota, in Western Europe more than 50%. Slovenia is in line with Europe - for Lexus we sell only hybrids, we have not had diesel since 2011 and customers really appreciate the hybrid technology. In the past there were some challenges with extremely diesel-oriented markets, but it was more related to the awareness, because once you drive a Lexus hybrid model, you will not go back to diesel. In this sense, we expect many brands will promote plug-in hybrids in the future, but they do not really have experience in this area. When we look at the market as a whole, it is actually not strong. The European average for hybrids is less than 3%, Europe is still quite diesel oriented.
How do you approach the European Unionʼs emissions requirements?
Gregor Mauko: We are quite distinct from other brands, also in terms of regulation. In the EU, the given deadlines - the initial 2020 and then 2030 - few are likely to achieve the targets in the automotive industry, except us! In addition, I would like to say that our environmentally-oriented strategy and hybrid cars affect customer satisfaction. Customers enjoy driving our cars because they are much more silent and people are more relaxed. In Italy, they made a very interesting study which showed that drivers of hybrid cars are lucky much moreso than non-hybrid, it means that hybrid has an important impact on your mood.
How does Slovenia encourage green solutions in the automotive sector?
Gregor Mauko: Regarding the infrastructure, in Slovenia there is only one fuel sell pump which is 10 years old and it cannot be used for current technology, but Slovenia is not the worst, you have a similar situation in Germany. The good news is that the government announced last year that from 2030 no diesel, only EVE (Efficient, Viable, Environmental) fuels. This is not realistic, but it means that the country should invest into infrastructure. I do not know whether there is some strategy behind these announcements, or if they have any. In addition, taxation is related to this and the Slovenian government is really far behind in this area.
In this sense, which country is "best practice"?
Gregor Mauko: A good example is Norway, which is the most advanced in Europe in terms of the penetration of electric cars. But how are they doing it? Most of the money actually comes from the oil industry, they reinvest into the green infrastructure and in this area the government has some plan.
According to the Annual Report 2017, Mr Akio Toyoda, President and Member of the Board of Directors, Toyota Motor Corporation said: "I want Toyota to be not just an automotive company, but a human movement company. 'Move' refers not just to transportation, but also to inspiring deep emotion or excitement." What is the mobility of the future based upon and how are you going to compete?
Kensuke Tsuchiya: Indeed, Toyota has been investing a lot into AI, which is one of the trends of the future. Actually, Toyota started to rent a robot under to its new vision that holds the slogan "mobility for all". The Paralympic athlete, a man with a pure heart, a consistent, optimistic and energetic person, inspired Akio Toyoda. He decided to invest in this area and now we have a global partnership for the Olympic, and especially the Paralympic, athletes. The previous president of the International Paralympic Committee has become a board member of Toyota Corporation. Consequently, also in Slovenia, we do our best to increase the awareness of providing mobility for all and to enable human movement.
Very much connected is our "Heroes drive in pajamas" project in Slovenia, in cooperation with Zavod Vozim and Generali, and the project "Mobility for all" in cooperation with BDF.handle and AMZS. Young people, aged from 15 to 29, are involved in more than 30% of car accidents because of alcohol, therefore we, as a car company, feel the responsibility for this area. So "if you drink, don't drive!". We are aware of the significant impact of this problem and want to encourage both young drivers and their parents to take responsibility together, and make sure that adolescents return home safely after partying. We take this initiative very seriously. We provide a vehicle that waits for the young people in front of the nightclubs. When they come out, we check the alcohol level and if it is more than legal, we take them home for free and disabled people drive them. At this point, I should mention the "Mobility for all" project that gives the opportunity to disabled people to drive a vehicle with help of BDF.Handle, this is just one of the solutions that realises Toyotas' philosophy to be a provider of equal mobility for everyone. We believe that this philosophy will allow us to appreciate individuality even more and set ourselves free from the established ways of thinking, discrimination and prejudice. However, the motto "Mobility For All" was not designed just for people with various physical limitations, but instead has a much wider meaning and encompasses everyone.
Gregor Mauko: Toyota's social contribution consists of a hybrid car with a special handle so that disabled people can drive. In the case of the "Pajama project", when you see a Toyota or Lexus car with this special handle and that someone without legs is driving you home and saying: "I once did the same as you did today and I paid for it with my legs", everybody becomes sober very fast.
Therefore, Toyoda's vision has been: "I do not want to be only a car manufacturer, but I would like to move people". Because the population is older, etc. Toyota is really investing in robots, which in Japan are mostly used in the old people's homes and in such institutions, robots are helping people to walk or to be mobile. On the other hand, as you asked, the car industry is moving to car sharing. Toyota has established a few companies that are focused on connected services, car-sharing technology, and in this sense, we see many opportunities in Slovenia as well. Next year all of the cars will be equipped with the technology to be connected. So, our forecast is that in the next few years, by 2025 almost one third of Toyota's income in Europe will be generated from the car-sharing economy.
Can you explain the ancient Japanese concept of 'Takumi', which applies a human touch to every aspect of Lexus design?
Kensuke Tsuchiya: 'Takumi' means Japanese craftsmanship, a philosophy that explains the maximisation of human ability for detail. It is much more than a machine and much more then AI! A sense of art, sense of the details, this is Takumi. In the Lexus factory we have only 19 people who are qualified in Takumi and these are the people who create the interior details for a Lexus. When you check the Lexus interior, it is really very detailed and Takumi technology really affects all the senses with its design.