The chairman of Toyota Motor Co. met with Canada’s Minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development on Sept. 8 to discuss the automaker’s future in the country and its push for hydrogen fuel cell infrastructure.
Takeshi Uchiyamada and Navdeep Bains talked in Montreal at the request of the federal government.
The Government of Canada has been cozying up to Toyota frequently this year.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and fellow Canadian politicians met with Toyota officials in January on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum in Davos, Bains said. Trudeau then met with Toyota CEO Akio Toyoda at Toyota Motor Corporation's head office in Tokyo in May.
“This is an ongoing relationship we’ve had since we formed government,” Bains said of the dialogue.
Toyota wants to work with the Government of Canada “to help build the infrastructure required for Canadians to adopt new automotive technology, including hydrogen fuel cell vehicles such as the Toyota Mirai,” Uchiyamada said in a statement issued after the meeting Friday.
Toyota, Hyundai and Honda are part of a coalition that has engaged the services of Fasken Martineau, a Canadian business that provides strategic advice and advocacy in government relations, to lobby the Canadian government to help provide the infrastructure needed to expand the sale of their products, including hydrogen fuel-cell vehicles.
Toyota is also part of an advisory group helping the federal government establish a national strategy designed to increase the number of zero-emission vehicles (ZEVs) on Canadian roads by 2018.
“Unfortunately, there is no additional information we can provide at this time,” Toyota Canada spokeswoman Alice Young Jeon said in an email to Automotive News Canada, “but we look forward to working closely with the government for opportunities to continue bringing greenhouse-gas-friendly technology to Canada.”
Bains told Automotive News Canada in a phone interview Friday that the two “discussed extensively” zero-emission vehicles strategy.
“They are very committed to fuel cells and wanted to…[gauge] our commitment to the environment, which we articulated,” Bains said. “We share the same values when it comes to reducing greenhouse gas emissions. There’s an understanding that the automotive sector is a key part of the solution to achieve our climate change targets.”
However, Bains said the two never discussed specific needs, facilities, product lines or investment in Canada. Toyota manufacturers vehicles at two plants in Cambridge, Ont., and at another in Woodstock.
Essentially, the high-ranking federal minister tried to sell the auto exec on the benefits of investing in Canada. He called Canada’s automotive footprint “strong and vibrant” and reminded Uchiyamada of the Strategic Innovation Fund, the $500 million fund that replaced for the former Automotive Innovation Fund.
Bains said he pitched the government’s innovation agenda, including its focus on investment in artificial intelligence, autonomous vehicle research and advanced manufacturing.
“We talked, clearly, about potential future investment opportunities. Nothing was finalized, but there’s an understanding of our value proposition in Canada,” Bains said.