For Toyota, 2021 was a year marked by great progress, guided by the desire to “produce happiness for all” by helping to make life easier for people everywhere. From big investments in U.S. manufacturing and numerous product launches, to innovations designed to help create “Mobility for All,” Toyota Motor North America (TMNA) marked each month with an array of accomplishments.

Following its core principle of long-term philosophy over short-term gains, Toyota invested heavily in reducing carbon emissions from its operations and products as well as in causes its people care about most. With support from leadership and its employees, Toyota has advanced its environmental platform, furthered its focus on inclusivity, and cultivated its capacity as a mobility company.

And as supply issues resulting from the pandemic impacted the automotive industry, Toyota persevered through challenging times — reallocating people and resources to support local community initiatives.

Take a look back at Toyota’s achievements in 2021 and get ready for what’s yet to come.

Paving the Way to Carbon Neutrality

In Spring 2021, Toyota outlined its 7th Environmental Action Plan, a new five-year mid-term plan with six key focus areas, from specific action items to help the company reduce its use of water, promote the reduction of waste through recycling, develop habitat management standards, and reduce carbon emissions from both its operations and vehicles.

One important element in its plans is the company’s push towards carbon neutrality, in its operations in North America by 2035, and across the board, including its vehicles, by 2050.

To achieve its commitments to aggressively reduce carbon emissions from its vehicles, Toyota took several important and significant steps last year. In April, the company announced that it would be exploring a strategic alliance with Chevron on hydrogen for fuel cell electric vehicles. By joining forces, the two companies seek to advance a global hydrogen economy. The announcement was followed later in the year with more fuel cell news from Toyota about a new production line in Kentucky that will produce fuel cell modules, initially destined for use in heavy-duty hydrogen-powered trucks.

Just a month later, in May, Toyota Research Institute (TRI) announced a $36 million commitment to its Accelerated Materials Design and Discovery (AMDD) collaborative university research program. Through that initiative, university partners like the California Institute of Technology, Stanford and the University of Michigan will receive additional resources to pursue advancements in battery and fuel cell technology.

To cap off a big spring, June saw Toyota AI Ventures rebrand as Toyota Ventures. With an additional $300 million in assets, the venture capital firm broaden the scope of its investment portfolio and included new focuses like emerging technology and carbon neutrality through the addition of the Toyota Ventures Frontier Fund and the Toyota Ventures Climate Fund.

In the summer, Toyota’s activities in habitat management came to light through a special program called “The Flight of the Monarch Butterfly – The Pollinator Project” that aired on Discovery, Science Channel and Animal Planet. The program examined and explored what is being done by American companies to help support pollinators, including a special focus on Toyota and its 17 pollinator gardens throughout its North American operations. The episode highlighted the biodiversity goals that are a part of Toyota’s Environmental Action Plan.

On the first day of fall 2021, Toyota announced an agreement to purchase 80% of the energy produced by Clearway Energy Group’s 100 MW Wildflower Solar project. Located near Toyota Motor Manufacturing, Mississippi (TMMMS) and starting operations in 2023, the project will help support Toyota’s shift toward carbon neutrality in its operations by 2035, replacing the carbon-intensive electricity its plant uses with clean, renewable energy. Additionally, Toyota also made a bold commitment when it announced its Green Supplier Initiative. This initiative was also rooted in the 7th Environmental Action Plan, outlining various requirements and guidelines for supplier partners, including requests for reducing the type of waste that might be produced by each supplier, such as CO2 emissions, plastic packaging and/or water waste.

Toyota’s commitments to the environment and carbon neutrality were also showcased on the small screen in October as part of a program called “The Power of Solar & Wind – The Road to Carbon Neutrality.” The television documentary, which explores how many top U.S. companies have begun powering their operations with alternative energy sources, aired on Discovery, Science Channel and MotorTrend TV.

Electrification Nation 

Toyota has long recognized the role that its products, especially electrified vehicles, play in the future of mobility, emphasized even more now with the company’s increased and stated focus on achieving carbon neutrality. To that end, in 2021, Toyota further showed its commitment to aggressively reducing carbon emissions and its determination to continue its leadership in driving a fully electrified future.

For example, Toyota kicked off the year by announcing three new electrified models—two battery-electric vehicles (BEVs) and one plug-in hybrid electric vehicle (PHEV)—for the U.S. market.

The introduction of these models showed Toyota’s strategy to offer options for varying customer preferences for electrified vehicles, a strategy that centers around two categories: “carbon reducing” and “carbon neutral.” Toyota continues to offer an expanding portfolio of options for customers that include carbon reducing hybrid (HEV) and plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEV), as well as carbon neutral fuel cell electric (FCEV) and battery electric vehicles (BEV). Recognizing that diversity is a better way to help mitigate climate change, Toyota is seeking the fastest path to achieve carbon neutrality by pursuing a diversity of electrified vehicle powertrains, all while helping customers understand, afford and adopt the technology to have real impact.

In mid-October, Toyota announced a 10-year, $3.4 billion investment in developing automotive batteries in the United States. That’s just a part of Toyota Motor Corporation’s (TMC) $13.5 billion global investment in the development of batteries — and the investment includes those for zero-emission BEVs.

Funded in part from this large investment, in early December, Toyota announced its first U.S.-based automotive battery plant, Toyota Battery Manufacturing, North Carolina (TBMNC), with production planned to begin in 2025. The plant will start with four lines and quickly ramp up to six lines and produce enough batteries for 1.2 million electrified vehicles while also creating 1,750 American jobs.

Toyota continued its momentum in vehicle electrification by announcing the all-new fully electric, bZ4X will arrive at U.S. dealers in mid-2022. The first vehicle of the new “beyond Zero” brand umbrella for Toyota’s BEVs, the bZ4X is a small SUV that will deliver the excitement and agility of a motor-driven vehicle along with a quiet, comfortable and entertaining cabin.

Finally, on Dec. 14, 2021, Akio Toyoda, president of TMC, announced plans to accelerate Toyota’s goal to help achieve a carbon-neutral society. By 2030, the company expects that its global sales of BEVs will reach 3.5 million vehicles annually. To help meet growing demand, Toyota plans to be positioned to offer as many as 30 BEV models across its brands, globally.

Ever Better Means Never Settle

Advancements didn’t just come in the form of electrification. TMNA started on a plan last April to introduce 25 new, refreshed or special edition vehicles — including two BEVs and one PHEV — over 16 months, nearly half of which are sedans. It began as late spring saw the Corolla Cross introduced to the Corolla lineup. A compact crossover with a 1,500-pound towing capacity, the Corolla Cross brings the spaciousness and cargo capacity of an SUV in a smaller, fuel-efficient package.

In June, the company announced a host of exciting new products that showcased the new-for-2022 Toyota lineup. From the 2022 Tacoma TRD Pro to the GR Supra A91-CF Edition, Toyota revealed its latest and greatest along with new innovative design and technological advancements.

Around the same time, TMNA introduced an all-new next-generation multimedia system, developed by the Connected Technologies division. The touchscreen infotainment system made its debut in the 2022 Lexus NX and 2022 Toyota Tundra. Screen sizes vary by model, but the largest available is 14-inches. With an all-new voice assistant feature, drivers now have a virtual companion that helps with in-car functions such as changing audio, climate control or navigation settings in select models. The system will eventually make its way to nearly all Toyota and Lexus models over the next few years. Certain features include a trial period at no extra cost upon original date of new vehicle purchase or lease. After the trial period ends, a paid subscription is required.

And, in an equally impressive product feat, at the peak of summer, Toyota sold its 50 millionth Corolla globally. Since its debut in 1966, the Corolla has been the mark of affordability meeting reliability — gaining buyer confidence for more than half a century, remaining one of the world’s best-selling car since 1997.

In September, the all-new 2022 Toyota Tundra was unveiled to the world. Outputting 348 horsepower and 405 pound-feet of torque on the base 4X4 model, the Tundra sports up to a massive 12,000-pound towing capacity and up to a 1,940-pound payload capacity. Some might be surprised to learn that the hybrid i-FORCE MAX edition is actually the most powerful version of the new Tundra, bumping the horsepower up to 437 and the torque up to 583 pound-feet. With available Adaptive Variable Suspension (AVS), a new multimedia system and tough-as-nails composite bed, this Texas-bred truck has features aplenty — and that’s all without mentioning the muscular exterior, chiseled to express strength.

Woven into American DNA

Although founded in Japan, Toyota has been part of the cultural fabric of the U.S. for more than 60 years, with $33.5 billion invested in nine manufacturing facilities (10 including the joint venture with Mazda), nearly 1,500 dealerships and over 179,000 people in the country. By assembling vehicles where it sells them, Toyota supports local suppliers and economies through investments like the massive $803 million it injected into Toyota Motor Manufacturing, Indiana (TMMI) to create 1,400 jobs and help propel the launch of new electrified SUVs.

Another $461 million investment in Toyota Motor Manufacturing, Kentucky (TMMK) will help modernize the facility, add 1,400 jobs, improve operational speed and support carbon neutrality goals. The latest amount brings Toyota’s investment in TMMK, its oldest U.S. manufacturing plant, to over $8.5 billion by 2025. Further, a $210 million investment in the upgrade of the Toyota Motor Manufacturing, West Virginia (TMMWV) facility will create 100 more jobs and increase engine production capacity at the facility. Later in November 2021, TMMWV announced a new $240 million investment to add a dedicated production line of hybrid transaxles. The investment will allow TMMWV team members to diversify their skillset and play a larger role in Toyota’s future producing electric vehicles in North America.

Still more initiatives launched in multiple states like Alabama, where the fall of 2021 saw the start of production on the new 2022 Corolla Cross at Mazda Toyota Manufacturing (MTM), and the latest twin-turbo hybrid-electric engines at Toyota Motor Manufacturing, Alabama (TMMAL).

And as it continues to commit more resources to U.S. facilities, Toyota also celebrated the milestones like the 20th anniversary of TMMAL, the 25th anniversaries of TMMI and TMMWV and the 30th anniversary of Toyota Motor Manufacturing, Missouri. By recognizing these events and others, like Manufacturing Month, Toyota celebrates its employees who help make TMNA’s operation possible. Behind major investments in existing facilities and a new BEV plant on the way, TMNA is poised to continue its growth in North America and usher in the next era of mobility technology.

Continued Commitment to Mobility for All

Another in a series of bold moves was the continued brand transition Toyota has taken to change from an automobile company to a mobility company committed to universal, inclusive and accessible mobility solutions.

That’s why, in 2021, the Toyota Mobility Foundation (TMF) began the Together in Motion autonomous vehicle shuttle pilot to help serve the communities of Indianapolis, Indiana and Fishers, Indiana. TMF partnered with Energy Systems Network (ESN) to bring May Mobility and Udelv, leaders in autonomous vehicle technology, into a dedicated testing area that will serve as a pilot for what the future of public transportation could look like.

With the same mission in mind, Toyota teamed up with AARP and local Dallas and Ann Arbor, Michigan organizations to offer a mobile application and online booking platform where people can review, compare, book and pay for local transportation alternatives. The program makes it easier for people to arrange transportation and access critical services including trips to the doctor, pharmacy or grocery store.

Internally, much of the work to become the world’s top mobility company takes place at Toyota’s Integrated Vehicle Systems (IVS) division located in Ann Arbor, Michigan, and, this June, it announced a breakthrough: the launch of Toyota Teammate. Teammate is an SAE Level 2 driver assistance system that is designed to partner with drivers to promote safe and convenient while driving on limited-access highways under certain conditions. That means drivers with Advanced Drive-enabled vehicles can enjoy the help of an automated and intelligent driving experience thanks to 360-degree cameras and sensors that are designed to detect and respond to conditions in real time.

And, while the team at Toyota is innovating every day, the need to engage the next generation in mobility is always top of mind. That is why Toyota also began mobility initiatives with Jackson-Madison County School District’s Learning Options and Opportunities Program (LOOP) to connect students to onsite job opportunities. Similar programs also recently launched at Toyota Motor Manufacturing, Texas and TMMMS to help connect potential employees and students to careers.

Toyota’s commitment to mobility was also important leading up to the Tokyo 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games. By highlighting the stories of athletes like 15-time Paralympic gold medalist Jessica Long in February’s 60-second ad for the Big Game, Toyota had the opportunity to reiterate its core value of Respect for People and reinforce that when a person is free to move, anything is possible. And just a few months later, Toyota launched a first-of-its-kind program offering up to $5 million in support and sponsorship opportunities to all U.S. eligible Paralympic athletes. In hopes to drive more awareness for the Paralympic Movement, the program is directly impacting the lives of Paralympic athletes who competed at Tokyo 2020 and/or who hope to compete in the Paralympic Winter Games Beijing 2022.

Innovating the Customer Experience Through Tech 

The transition to a mobility company — like almost any innovation at Toyota — begins with reimagining the customer experience. That’s why TMNA announced a new entirely online-based retail solution to revolutionize the Toyota car-buying experience.

In partnership with Toyota Financial Services (TFS), the complete SmartPath retail experience was unveiled in February 2021, allowing customers to have more control over their buying experience and even complete purchases from the comfort of their homes. By integrating inventory, customer relationship management systems and financing, SmartPath gives dealers the time-saving tools they need to anticipate a customer’s needs.

And as the digitization of the consumer experience continues, Toyota recognizes the need to demonstrate a commitment to consumer privacy. In June 2021, TMNA introduced the Toyota Data Privacy Portal, available within the Toyota and Lexus Apps. The portal provides consumers an easy way to identify and select what information Toyota collects and how it will be used to benefit their ownership experience.

A month later, Toyota introduced another online tool to improve the customer experience when it revealed the Toyota Driver’s Companion, exclusive to the 2021 Toyota Sienna, feature in the Toyota App. Designed to transform the owner’s manual experience into a digital one by leveraging Google AI, the Toyota Driver’s Companion features a virtual assistant named Joya that interacts with drivers through natural dialogue. Now 2021 Toyota Sienna drivers can receive answers to questions like “What’s the height of my car?” without having to flip through a manual.

Additionally, in December, Toyota Insurance Management Solutions deployed new digital technology to enable the launch of Toyota Auto Insurance. Consumers can now quickly and easily purchase a policy via Toyota’s state-of the-art mobile app, website, call center, or a participating Toyota dealership.

Safety Stays Strong… and Gets Even Better 

As part of this philosophy for continuous improvement, TMNA met new safety milestones as well by entering the year with 10 million vehicles produced and equipped with Toyota Safety Sense (TSS) and Lexus Safety System+ (LSS+). TSS/LSS+ vehicles come equipped with Automatic Emergency Braking (AEB) technology. This helps Toyota meet a voluntary commitment with the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA) to produce 95% of vehicles with AEB by fall 2022.

Another initiative to deliver cars with advanced safety technology to more people, came with Toyota’s January 2021 announcement that its Total Human Model for Safety (THUMS) is completely free to engineers everywhere to help them learn how vehicles can protect passengers in accidents. Effectively a digital crash-test dummy designed to simulate and analyze injuries from a vehicle collision, THUMS is the product of 20 years of engineering work at Toyota.

A few months later, in May, Toyota launched Toyota for Families, a digital tool kit designed to make car seat installation and keeping up with product recalls easier for busy parents. Created by principal engineers and proud moms Jennifer Pelky and Lindsay Babian, Toyota for Families is another example of how Toyota creates a culture of innovation that helps improve products and the lives of employees and customers alike.

Supporting Communities and Strengthening our Company — Creating Limitless Possibilities for All— is Toyota’s DNA

Work to address the COVID-19 pandemic continued with Toyota focusing efforts on access and awareness of vaccines, food assistance, education, and employment opportunities. Through these investments and in 2021 alone, in the US, Toyota impacted more than 2 million people.

One such effort focused on access, awareness and education to vaccines led to a collaboration with AARP, UnidosUS and nonprofits in 13 states. Toyota provided more than 50 vehicles and grant funding in these states, in addition to a fleet of vehicles to the Los Angeles City Fire Department who are going door-to-door to help the homebound. A mobile clinic was launched, and Toyota worked with the City of Frisco, Parkland Hospital, and the University of Louisville vaccination hubs to improve vaccine facilitation.

Another effort focused on education led to the creation of a virtual field trip – Moving to Market – and the work to co-create of Ann Arbor Hands-On Museum’s new STEAM Park. Efforts to prepare, motivate and inspire students included new Toyota USA Foundation grants focused on girls in STEM, computer science and a significant milestone with the phased opening of the West Dallas STEM School.

And, in April, Toyota announced a $1.7 million investment in full-tuition scholarships for female and underrepresented students of color working towards degrees in engineering from either the University of Kentucky or University of Louisville. This built on scholarship programs with the Hispanic Scholarship Fund, Rainbow PUSH, Point Foundation, and additional investments to connect students with opportunities and close the STEM gap.

Toyota also increased its longstanding support for the Asian American Pacific Islander (AAPI) community, funding new programs to support small businesses, social justice, and education, among additional areas. Through Toyota’s highly engaged workforce, employees part of TAASIA – an employee resource group focused on AAPI – helped guide efforts to support the community.

This type of employee engagement can be found throughout the company, and it is one reason Toyota Financial Services was recognized as one of the 50 most civic-minded businesses in the nation.

All of these efforts are just some of the reasons that Toyota earned the 7th spot on DiversityInc’s Top Companies for Diversity. Toyota is the highest ranked automaker and the highest ranked heavy manufacturing company.

Evolving Achievements

Behind a long list of achievements last year is a distinguished leadership team that never stops pushing the envelope, which is the reason TMC president, Akio Toyoda, was honored by the World Car Awards jury in April. As the 2021 World Car Person of the Year, Toyoda was quick to amend the title “from car ‘person’ of the year to car ‘people’ of the year, because it’s the collective effort … that has truly made Toyota what it is today.”

The result of that collective effort was that Toyota once again landed on the 2021 Fortune Global 500 List. This time, Toyota climbed one spot to number nine, with $256.7 billion in annual revenue. And that revenue translates right back to the customer as Toyota Motor Credit Corporation (TMCC) constantly seeks ways to help consumers take home the mobility products they need. This past November, TMCC announced an expansion of Toyota’s relationship with Bass Pro Shops and Cabela’s to include offering financial services for the company’s boats, all-terrain vehicles and other mobility products.

Mobility Doesn’t Stop 

Toyota knows that mobility doesn’t stop. Even on non-production days, many TMNA employees found ways to use that time for good by giving back to the community and raising money for various causes. It’s another example of how Toyota and its employees demonstrates an unending commitment to Toyota’s core values and its respect for people and the environment.

So, with 50 million Corollas sold, Toyota’s electrified vehicles continuing to pave the way, and a renewed commitment to mobility among the year’s accomplishments, Toyota is ready for this new year – and all that may come its way.

Originally published January 21, 2022

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