As the president of Toyota’s new BEV factory, which launched in May, Takero Kato has a big weight on his shoulders. In a recent interview, Kato explained how the brand’s first electric sedan, a collaboration with BYD, will help with its next-gen EVs.
Toyota launched its “BEV Factory” this May. It’s not the typical factory you imagine, but a new unit dedicated to developing Toyota’s next-gen electric vehicles.
By accelerating collaboration with outside partners, Toyota wants to build competitive EVs. Under a single leader (Kato), “development, production, and business” are all conducted in one place.
In a new interview, Kato explained how one of its first partnerships with China’s leading EV maker, BYD, shaped his vision.
Kato teamed up with BYD to build the first electric Toyota sedan, the bZ3. It started in 2018 on a business trip to China.
“For the first time, I came face to face with the competitiveness of Chinese components,” Kato said. After seeing equipment and manufacturing processes not used in Japan, Kato thought, “We’re in trouble!”
Working with BYD to build the first electric Toyota sedan
After his visit, Kato’s dream of working in China became a reality. He was approached in a room full of Toyota executives when vice president Shigeki Terashi asked, “We are thinking of doing a project with BYD. Can we ask you to handle it?”
Kato was chosen to lead a joint project to build an electric sedan with BYD. He quickly got to work assembling a team.
After the holidays, Kato went to meet with BYD. After visiting BYD’s headquarters for half a year, “laying the groundwork,” the team decided on a concept in 2020.
Knowing the speed of development and new technology in China, Kato was “eager to get in there and soak up what we didn’t have to drive further development.”
The process required constant change. In past Toyota projects, the vehicle’s specs had to be finalized before development began.
He explained the first big change was five months after modifying the vehicle’s height and wheelbase. With the overall height lowered by 25 mm, the underbody needed to be redesigned.
Kato said, “In Japan, that would have brought the entire development to a standstill.” The bZ3 was revealed in October 2022, the first electric Toyota sedan co-developed with BYD.
The electric sedan features BYD Blade batteries, motor, and electric control system with over 600 km (379) CLTC range. It rides on the e-TNGA platform used to power the Toyota bZ4X and Subaru Solterra.
After the first bZ3 rolled off the assembly line in March, FAW-Toyota revealed it had generated over 5,000 orders on its first sales day.
Toyota has since announced a series of new innovations to speed up EV development and efficiency. The automaker plans to release next-gen EVs in 2026 with advanced batteries, a new platform, and improved manufacturing. Kato is currently in charge of developing the new models.