Environmental, health, auto groups urge Toyota to stop opposing Biden’s push for more electric vehicles

SAN FRANCISCO – A coalition of more than a dozen environmental, public interest and auto industry groups is urging Toyota to stop opposing critical efforts in Congress that would advance the Biden administration’s goals of slashing tailpipe emissions and tackling the climate crisis by ramping up investments and tax credits for electric vehicles, or EVs.

In a September 21 letter to Toyota, the groups – including the Environmental Working Group, the Electric Auto Association, Plug In America and Public Citizen – also ask for a meeting with Tetsuo “Ted” Ogawa, president and chief executive officer of Toyota Motor North America, Inc., to discuss the company’s harmful lobbying and to make the case for changing direction.

Toyota, once a leader in the production of EVs with the introduction of the Prius in 1997, has since become a laggard among automakers, many of which are now moving to cut vehicle emissions. The company is falling behind others that are boosting production of EVs while tightening fuel efficiency standards for gasoline-powered cars and light trucks.

Toyota finds itself in this position because it made the ill-fated decision to bet on hydrogen fuel cells over EVs, losing ground to competitors that saw the market for battery-powered cars. This is likely a main reason for the company’s strident opposition to the historic proposals to boost EVs now awaiting action in Congress.

While nearly every other major car company supports President Joe Biden’s goal of transitioning the U.S. auto fleet to 50 percent EVs by 2030, Toyota is actively fighting that plan. The automaker is lobbying against a proposed $174 billion in investments for EVs and related infrastructure, like charging stations, that is part of the larger infrastructure legislative blueprints that Congress is currently considering.

“Toyota’s efforts to lobby Congress to steer away from this vision and pressure members of Congress to reduce funding and oppose tax credits for Americans’ access to zero-emission EVs are putting our nation’s and the world’s transportation and climate future at risk,” says the coalition’s letter.

“As a collective group of organizations concerned about the tremendous consequences of such action, we ask Toyota not to stand in the way of Congressional funding of the president’s vision,” the groups write.

Earlier this month, news broke that Toyota is also opposing legislation introduced in September by several members of the House Ways and Means Committee that would establish tax credits for all EVs. The Hill reports that Toyota is objecting to the plan because the tax credit for union-made cars would be set at $12,500 for consumers, while cars manufactured by non-union workers, like those made by Toyota, would total $7,500.

The coalition, which also includes the Center for Biological Diversity and Moms Clean Air Force, questions why Toyota, once the crown jewel of EV manufacturing, is fighting efforts by Congress and the Biden administration to inject historic federal investments in the production of zero-emissions automobiles to help the U.S. stave off the worst impacts of the climate crisis.

Unfortunately, Toyota has been aggressively fighting virtually any effort to reduce tailpipe pollution, which is the leading emitter of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere,” said EWG President and co-founder Ken Cook. “If the company doesn’t drop its opposition to these important investments in clean car technologies, consumers should stop buying their cars. A mass exodus from Toyota’s car lots may be the only leverage left to change its outrageous behavior and posture when it comes to combating the climate crisis.”  

Soon after former President Donald Trump took office, auto industry lobbyists pushed for a rollback of Obama-era federal fuel economy standards. In 2019, Toyota, GM and Fiat Chrysler joined Trump’s legal efforts to overturn California’s separate vehicle standards, which largely align with federal rules the Obama administration set in 2011.

In 2020, EWG’s Cook wrote an open letter to the CEOs of the three dawdling automakers, excoriating them for throwing their collective support behind Trump’s scheme to block the most ambitious U.S. effort to slash greenhouse gas emissions.

Toyota only dropped its support for Trump’s lawsuit over California’s rules after Biden, who opposed the ill-conceived, anti-climate push, became president.

In December 2017, Scott Pruitt, the disgraced former Trump Environmental Protection Agency administrator, told the House Committee on Energy and Commerce that the agency was “partnering with Toyota to begin a lean process at the agency to evaluate management practices,” an arrangement that was first reported by the Huffington Post.

EWG promptly urged Toyota to scuttle any plans to partner with the most anti-environment administrator in the history of the EPA. The arrangement between Pruitt and Toyota was meant to “streamline” the 1970 National Environmental Policy Act, or NEPA, which requires all federal agencies, including the EPA, to assess the environmental effects of their proposed actions prior to making decisions.

The EPA is responsible for regulating air pollution from the auto industry, most notably “controlling greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, smog, soot and other air pollution from on-road vehicles,” which would make any alliance between Toyota and the EPA to overhaul how the agency implements NEPA a clear conflict of interest.

In a letter sent to EWG in January 2018, Toyota backed away from any collaboration with Pruitt, stating it had no plansto enter into a partnership with the EPA.

The Obama EPA and the Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration issued the landmark vehicle GHG and fuel economy standards that the Trump administration tried to weaken. The Biden administration in August then announced plans to significantly tighten vehicle standards.


The Environmental Working Group is a nonprofit, non-partisan organization that empowers people to live healthier lives in a healthier environment. Through research, advocacy and unique education tools, EWG drives consumer choice and civic action. Visit www.ewg.org for more information.

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