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Toyota's manufacturing methods for reducing emissions

08 February, 2006

Since the Toyota automotive business sprang from a period of economic difficulty in Japan in the late 1930s, its business model has been based on limiting waste and ‘lean, clean’ manufacturing. Today as well as its own brand, Toyota is also responsible for Lexus, Daihatsu and Hino amongst others. The company has 15 plants in Japan, 51 manufacturing companies in over 26 countries with a market in over 170; yet its sustainable ethos has remained central to global operations. Toyota affirms the importance of carrying out top-level environmental action at the development and design, production, sales, and disposal stages of a vehicle's life cycle.

The Climate Group

Toyota adopted the ‘Global Vision 2010’ as a medium- to long-term management direction and target to which all Toyota employees should strive. One “Global Vision” objective is that "Toyota will strive to become a leader of global regeneration through its outstanding environmental technologies.” This includes dealing with its own carbon footprint and that of the vehicles it sells.

Toyota’s strategy for improving its CO2 performance is based on technological developments, such as the improved fuel efficiency of both diesel and petrol engines and wider use of hybrid technology plus increasing consumer awareness of low emission vehicles through advertising and marketing. Commitment and extensive R&D have allowed Toyota to take a leading role in developing and marketing new technologies and designs that limit the environmental burden of its products. Progress towards Toyota’s goals is detailed in the annual Toyota Environmental and Social Report


In 2003, Toyota embarked on its first pan-European corporate advertising campaign. Spanning an initial three-year period (2003-2005), this campaign - "Aim: Zero Emissions" communicates Toyota’s aspiration to reduce emissions in all its areas of activity, from design and planning to recycling of end-of-life vehicles.

In 2004, the campaign widened to include television. Focusing on "Green Design", a series of advertisements appeared on three pan-European television channels. To support the "Aim: Zero Emissions" message – Toyota created an Environmental Brochure in early 2004. This brochure was designed to target the general public and was translated into nine different languages, presenting Toyota’s basic environmental messages with a clear focus on the environmental technologies that are beneficial to consumers.

Toyota also carefully collects and analyses customer-satisfaction data, to better understand customers’ purchasing decisions and thereby hone an ever-more successful marketing strategy for the various Toyota and Lexus models. Even if consumers still do not see GHG reduction as a top purchasing priority, initiatives such as “Aim: Zero Emissions” help raise consciousness together with the roll out of hybrid technology, education, government action and other initiatives such as the eco-label.

The eco-label is a new UK initiative, which grades cars on their fuel efficiency and will play a key role in informing UK consumer purchasing behaviour. The label was available on all Toyota and Lexus models in all UK retail outlets on 1st July 2005. The scheme was pioneered by The Low Carbon Vehicle Partnership (LowCVP), a partnership of organisations from the automotive and fuel industries, governments, academia, environmental NGOs and other stakeholders who are working together to achieve the shift to a low carbon economy. As Chairman of LowCVP, Graham Smith has been instrumental in the success of the collaboration to date. The eco-label aims to increase public awareness of the environmental impact of their purchasing choice but this process could be assisted by the re-introduction of the UK’s Powershift scheme, which provided grants to the purchasers of the most environmentally friendly vehicles.

Energy Efficiency

Through measures including the implementation of energy conserving technologies into various facilities, consolidation of production lines and a shortening of processes in newly established lines, Toyota aims to reduce the CO2 emissions from its own operations by 15%.

In June 2005, Canadian Autoparts Toyota Inc. (CAPTIN), a wholly owned subsidiary of the Toyota Motor Corporation, was designated a Power Smart Certified customer for its achievements in energy efficiency. Since 2003, CAPTIN has saved $110,000 in annual costs through proactive energy management including measures such as: retrofitting office and plant lighting; installing of occupancy sensors; connecting HVAC units and the plant's lighting system to an expanded control system, and optimising the compressed air system.


A number of auto-manufacturers are attempting to reduce the climate impact of their products, through voluntary agreements that set standards for fuel efficiency. The European Automobile Manufacturers Association (ACEA) Agreement seeks a gradual reduction in emissions from new vehicles sold in Europe to attain a target of 140g CO2/km by 2008. The Japanese Automobile Manufacturers Association (JAMA), of which Toyota is a member, has signed a voluntary agreement with the EC to reach this target by 2009, with an intermediate reduction of between 165g CO2/km and 175g CO2/km by 2003. JAMA achieved a figure of 171g CO2/km in 2003, indicating that the association is on track to meet the 2009 target.

Toyota is currently working to achieve this voluntary target by 2009 within the context of its own 2010 Global Vision and zero emissions vehicle goal through, in part, increasing the mix of hybrids within its model line up. The company fully supports these voluntary obligations and is working with the EC to determine how to take voluntary agreements forward post 2009. As Graham Smith explains; “this voluntary scheme has helped business react effectively to the challenge before us. Toyota’s positive reaction can be seen through the progress already made in terms of new technology and C02 savings, not just in respect of the Toyota and Lexus product ranges but also in many other areas of the business.”

Toyota pioneered the world’s first mass produced petrol/electric car with the Prius which went on sale in Japan in 1997 (Prius I), two years before any other manufacturer. The second generation Prius went on sale in 2003 and in Europe in 2004. European sales for 2005 are expected to more than double those of the previous year. Toyota’s views hybrid technology as neither a niche product nor merely a stepping stone to fuel cell technology, but rather a viable, stand alone technology that can improve the efficiency of most fuels.

Driving a new Prius saves roughly 1 tonne of CO2 per year as compared to a diesel vehicle or 1.9 tonnes compared to petrol vehicles, based on average driving patterns. Global sales of the new Prius totalled 132,703 in 2004; considering that one tree absorbs around 14kg of CO2 each year, Prius drivers in 2004 alone did the job of some 9,478,800 trees.

As well as the Prius, Toyota has made other significant investments in hybrid technology selling over 380,000 hybrids in total, with the Estima, Camry and the Highlander in Japan and the US. The Prius and Lexus RX 400h are available in Europe as well as the Japanese and US markets. In addition, a new small car, the Aygo has been introduced in Europe with CO2 emissions of only 109g/km.

Toyota has also developed Eco-VAS (Eco-Vehicle Assessment System) a valuable environment management tool for those responsible for vehicle development and allows comprehensive assessment at each stage of the development process of the impact of each vehicle on the environment through its life cycle. Toyota applied Eco-VAS for the first time to the Vitz in 2005.

Transport and Planning

An inventory was started in 2004, tracking CO2 emissions from the company’s vehicle logistics process and consolidated reduction targets for FY2005 have been set with 2010 targets under development. The inventory allows Toyota to identify where effective CO2 reductions can be made. Many different solutions have been implemented, such as the increased use of rail transportation during logistic operations.

In the USA, Toyota Logistics Services’ Port Newark (N.J.) Vehicle Distribution Center was reopened in May 2005 after a $20-million expansion. Initiatives developed at the center designed to reduce operational climate impact include electric powered RAV4 EV shuttles for transportation around the facility and a strict no-idling policy.

In Europe, the distribution of parts is organised in two different flows; distribution from suppliers to manufacturing plants for assembly of vehicles, engines and transmissions and distribution of spare parts and accessories to retailers. Because the delivery of parts to both plants and retailers is the responsibility of Toyota and not the suppliers, more efficient and optimised route planning can be implemented, allowing for more control over tracking and reducing CO2 emissions.

Future Priorities

TMC’s Fourth Environmental Action Plan (FY2006-10) is a clear statement of the activities Toyota must undertake to achieve all of its goals, including global CO2 management. Environmental management will remain integral to the company’s philosophy. According to TMC’s new President Katsuaki Watanabe, “The benefits of this approach will be the fulfilment of a dream; a vehicle that makes the air cleaner the more one drives it.” There is a long way to go to meet Toyota’s goal of zero emission transport but with the company continuing to lead the research and development of the technological advances needed, this low carbon vehicle future is sure to be realised.

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