Full text of TMC President Toyoda’s speech
Hello to all my friends in Thailand! Sawa DEE Krap! Because this is such an important occasion, I thought I should try to make as dramatic an entrance as possible. So I borrowed this super tricked-out Hilux from one of our customers. What do you think? As you may have figured out by now, I don’t just like cars… I LOVE them! And nothing pleases me more than seeing our customers enjoying them as much as I do. So I want to thank all the Thai car customizers out there, who take our products and turn them into something really “pan mak” (superb) as the kids like to say! In fact, allow me to introduce you to the person who created this particular Hilux. I really love what he did with that Hilux. Maybe he’ll sell it to me.
Anyway… ladies and gentlemen, honored guests, and Toyota Thailand team members―thank you so much for joining us today. I can’t believe I was just five years old when we opened Toyota Motor Thailand. Little did I know then that I would have the honor of celebrating this special anniversary here with you 60 years later. Personally, I have always considered Thailand my “home away from home.” If I didn’t have to live in Japan for my job… I’d live here! I’d get a place right next door to Somboom and eat pu pad pong gari every day!
But seriously, for me, Thailand truly is “the land of smiles,” and I have long been inspired by the warmth and optimism of its people. And it’s the people of Thailand who are most responsible for the celebration we are enjoying today. 60 years ago, Toyota Motor Thailand began with just a handful of employees who assembled cars with parts sent from Japan. The Hilux and Corolla were popular, but our domestic production capability was low, which meant so was our sales volume. Despite this, we dedicated ourselves to building vehicles for the people of Thailand.
But 10 years in, we would face our first real challenge. Japanese imports to Thailand had been steadily increasing, which led to widespread anti-Japan boycotts among consumers. At the time, the great Yuki Togo, a personal hero of mine, was in charge of Toyota Motor Thailand, and he decided to take a rather unusual approach to show our loyalty to Thailand. He actually shaved his head, went to a temple, and became a Buddhist monk! I’m not sure I would have been brave enough to do the same, but his efforts to understand the culture of Thailand better helped reduce opposition to Toyota. This is a lesson we’ve never forgotten and to this day, showing our respect and gratitude to the country of Thailand remains our highest priority. Another key moment in our history was when we merged our engine-building company, STM, with the much admired Siam Cement Group in 1987. Thanks to SCG, we would now have the resources and local employees we needed to make a real go of it in Thailand.
Ten years later, we would proudly introduce our first car that was fully engineered and built in Thailand, especially for the Thai market. We called it the Soluna, and at the time it was almost as popular as BLACKPINK! But days later, that would all end when the people of Thailand were hit hard by the Asian Financial Crisis. As has always been our policy, we refused to lay off a single employee, and as a sign of appreciation, his Majesty, King Rama 9 himself, ordered a Soluna. We, in turn, used the proceeds to help fulfill the King’s wish to create the Ratcha-mong-kol Rice Company to support struggling farmers.
This would not be the last time we would feel the kindness of the Royal Family. When Toyota faced the recall issue of 2010, I was required to testify before congress in the United States. As you can imagine, this was very difficult, with many people doubting Toyota’s integrity. During the hearings, the only global leader who expressed his belief in Toyota and questioned the truth of what was being reported was His Majesty, King Rama 9. I cannot tell you how deeply I appreciated this. Toyota will always be extremely grateful for the kindness of His Majesty and the Thai people, and I would like to thank them today from the bottom of my heart.
It has been a privilege to grow and prosper here in Thailand, and I’m quite proud of what TOYOTA has achieved. But honestly, for me, it’s not about how many cars we’ve sold here or whether we’re number one in sales. My greatest wish is simply to be number one in the hearts of our customers here in Thailand because we want to contribute more to this country than just cars. We want to help foster economic opportunity.
This was our goal when we selected Thailand to produce a new global model called IMV in 2002. The first of these IMV model would be an affordable, reliable pick-up truck to be built from the ground up here in Thailand. At the time, I had recently been promoted to the executive in charge of the ASEAN region. Unfortunately, when I got the job, the launch of this new pick-up was in big trouble and way behind schedule. And because I was quite young for such a position at the time, and I also happened to have the last name Toyoda, as you can imagine, there were plenty of people in Japan placing bets on whether the project would fail. But I was determined to show them wrong. I was going to bet on the people of Toyota Thailand, and no matter what it took, we were going to launch that pick-up truck on time. So I went to Thailand, met with our engineers, and together we worked as a team, found solutions, and made quick decisions. And sure enough, thanks to our Thai team members we launched the vehicle on time! We called it the Hilux Vigo, and it was such a success that it came to be known as the national car of Thailand!
For me, the Hilux Vigo launch remains one of the fondest memories of my career, and it shaped my leadership style more than anything else. I will always be grateful to Thailand for the lessons I learned from that experience. So as a way of saying thank you, I decided to challenge our engineering and design teams to create a brand new IMV pick-up truck for Thailand, something truly affordable and truly innovative. Internally we call it the IMV 0 concept. Its official launch is actually over a year away, but I wanted all of you to be the first to see it!
Ladies and gentlemen, introducing the all new, IMV 0 concept and our all new Hilux Revo BEV concept. Between them, they represent two different ends of the automotive spectrum for different needs and different customers―One designed to support economic growth and mobility for all, and one designed to support carbon neutrality and a better environment for all. I’d like to thank our designers and engineers, especially those here in Thailand for their contribution to these two vehicles, especially the innovative new IMV 0. I truly believe this is a product that can enhance the quality of life for many people and provide new economic opportunities.
Because at Toyota, we believe people come first. We believe in building cars to serve the real-life needs of our customers. That is why our IMV 0 team spent many months in the field, observing the lifestyles and needs of our potential owners. It’s also why Toyota does not take a one-size-fits-all approach to our products or our powertrains. In fact, I am often criticized in the press because I won’t declare that the automotive industry should commit 100% to BEV. I believe we need to be realistic about when society will be able to fully adopt Battery Electric Vehicles and when our infrastructure can support them at scale.
Because just like the fully autonomous cars that we were all supposed to be driving by now, I think BEVs are just going to take longer to become mainstream than the media would like us to believe. And frankly, BEVs are not the only way to achieve the world’s carbon neutrality goals. Personally, I would rather pursue every option, not just one,―options such as emission-free synthetic fuels and hydrogen. I still believe Hydrogen is as promising a technology for our future as BEV. In fact, a few months ago, I was in Belgium for the WRC race and I drove our new Hydrogen-powered Yaris for the press and public. This was my first time driving it and I was blown away by its performance.
At Toyota we believe in creating a full portfolio of carbon-reducing choices for our customers, from hybrid electric vehicles like this Camry to plug-in electric vehicles like our Prius Prime to full, battery electric cars like our new bZ4X. But we’re not stopping there. That’s why we’ve introduced fuel cell vehicles like our Toyota Mirai and are pursuing hydrogen fuel options like these GR-Yaris and Corolla Cross hydrogen-powered concept cars. In fact, I will be driving a GR-Corolla at the Idemitsu 25-hour race this weekend, and by the way, I hope to see all of you there!
As we work to achieve a sustainable future, I also believe we need to take a holistic approach to carbon neutrality, from how we source materials, to how we manufacture cars, to what powertrains we put in them, and how we dispose of them. We must remember that carbon is the real enemy, not a particular powertrain and that we can’t reach carbon neutrality on our own. It must be a group effort and include other industries beyond automotive.
Which is why I am so pleased to announce today our new partnership with Thailand’s largest private company CP which is not only a producer of goods but owns one of the largest chains of convenience stores and supermarkets. Together we can reduce CO2 by rethinking the way we deliver consumer goods through zero-emission technology like fuel cell trucks and by making driving logistics more energy efficient with our connected technology. Together we will also expand CP’s current efforts to make clean hydrogen from bio-mass like chicken manure. Both Toyota and CP feel a deep and urgent responsibility to help this beautiful country and planet of ours and to support the well-being of its people which is why we are so eager to combine our powers for the greater good.
And I’m happy to say that this partnership will include other members of the Commercial Japan Partnership Technologies Corporation, including Daihatsu, Suzuki, Isuzu, and Hino. CJPT was created to address the future of mobility in partnership with others in our industry. We brought our competitors together to unite and strengthen our efforts to build on this new opportunity for CO2 reduction.
But while we work to support the environment, we will also continue to support the people of Thailand. Surprisingly, perhaps nothing reinforced our commitment to the people of Thailand more than the Mega Flood of 2011. The courage and determination you showed in response to this challenge only served to strengthen our belief in the future of Thailand and as a result, we have dramatically increased our investment here. So from where I sit, the future of Toyota and Thailand is very bright, and it’s only going to get brighter. You have faithfully supported us for 60 years, and I now humbly ask for your support for the next 60. And you have my personal commitment to work hard to continue to earn your trust and your affection. So once again, thank you, Domo Arigato, Khop Khun Krap. You are cherished members of our global Toyota family, and together I believe we can help make the world a better place one smile at a time.
Ladies and Gentlemen, we may not share the same rivers and mountains, but we share the same sun and sky, and the same wish for harmony and happiness. As we look toward the future to the next sixty years, I believe there is no limit to what we can dream, no limit to what we can achieve, and no limit to what we can become. Because together, everything is possible. Thank you very much.