Is Japan starting to take Tesla seriously? [Video]

This weekend, CNBC attempted to (once again) rattle the cage of Tesla Motors [NASDAQ: TSLA] by hyping an up-and-coming Japanese electric car maker: "Dubbed 'Japan's Tesla,' GLM develops its own technology for electric vehicle power systems, chassis and vehicle control units, all of which are customizable and on offer, even to rivals. Leading carmakers around the world... [including] Toyota are eyeing the electric car market for growth and to stave off competition as upstart Tesla Motors moves away from a luxury [price bracket]... and aims for the mid-priced mass-market."

Above: The Tesla Model 3 already has ~400,000 reservations from customers worldwide (Instagram: @peter_jackson)

So is GLM just more media hype or is it for real? It turns out that, "The Kyoto-based company has already sold its cars in limited quantities in the U.K. and in Japan... Its latest model, the GLM-G4, has a twin-motor electric powertrain with 536 horsepower and 737 pound-feet of torque and is within the price range of $200,000 to $300,000." Sota Nagano, chief financial officer at GLM noted, "Another pillar of our business is leveraging this technology for our own line of cars, and applying it to third-party [clients]."

Above: Japan's all-electric GLM-G4 concept car with a price range between $200,000 to $300,000 seen earlier this year at the Paris Auto Show (Source: 01net)

On the other side of the spectrum in Japan is the almighty Toyota. After championing hydrogen fuel cell technology with its lackluster Mirai, Toyota is coming back around to electric vehicles. Reuters reports, "Toyota, Japan’s biggest automaker by volume... is gearing up to launch a new, near-all-electric plug-in hybrid called the Prius Prime. It is also aiming to come up with an all-electric battery car by about 2020." Hisao Yamashige, a battery technology researcher at Toyota, announced renewed interest in electric vehicle tech: "Lithium-ion battery is a key technology for electrifying cars, and there is a clear need, going forward, for improving this technology and its performance even more."

Above: Years ago, Tesla and Toyota were far more closely aligned in efforts towards vehicle electrification (Image: CleanTechnica)

And today, Electrek reports that, at last: "Toyota finally gets serious about electric vehicles, [and] puts President in charge of EV program," a gesture that reflects the changing mood at the company. Remember — back in 2010, Toyota had announced a partnership with Tesla which included Toyota's $50 million investment. In addition, Tesla was building electric powertrain components for Toyota's RAV4 EV (see below). Later the two companies parted ways as Toyota announced efforts to pursue hydrogen fuel cells instead of EVs. Meanwhile, Tesla has been investing in new suppliers in Japan. And, according to Electrek, "With over 4 million new car sales per year, Japan is one of the world’s biggest car markets and Tesla is investing in the country." 

Above: Back in 2010, during the LA Auto Show, Toyota released this press photo of the Toyota RAV4 EV proudly announcing that it was "powered by Tesla" (Source: Green Car Reports)

After all, Japan already has more electric car charge points than gas stations. And, Japan's Nissan (as of September 2016) boasts the world's all-time best selling electric car, the Nissan Leaf, with almost 240,000 units sold. Nevertheless, while some Japanese auto manufacturers (hint: Toyota) are just beginning to come to grips with this fast-approaching electric vehicle future, Tesla certainly hasn't been standing still. In fact, in recent months, Tesla Motors has released an impressive series of beautiful (and informative) video vignettes* attracting the attention of the Japanese market.

Life with Tesla




Joy of Driving






Owner Stories


In addition, let's not forget: "Tesla’s sole vehicle battery supplier is the Japanese electronics giant Panasonic." And, Tesla already: "operates two stores, one in Tokyo and one in Osaka, and a service center with a showroom just outside Yokohama." So while Tesla quickly expands it's business, suppliers, and reach in Japan, it appears Japanese automakers are finally beginning to wake up to the potential of electric vehicles — perhaps a reaction to fierce competition from Tesla.


*Video vignettes: Tesla