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Toyota Waits on Electric Cars as Volkswagen Forges Ahead

“Even if it’s 10 percent of the market, we want to pursue it,” Keogh said after his presentation. Speaking of Tesla’s success and its Model 3 sedan, he said: “We have not seen in the history of the auto business, a company going from zero to fourth place in luxury in a matter of a few years.”

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Battery-powered cars are a big gamble for automakers. Many of them are racing to market with electric models both to meet stricter emissions standards around the globe, and since Tesla’s Model 3 started selling briskly last year. Collectively, carmakers will spend $255 billion making electric autos by 2022, according to consulting firm AlixPartners.

Keogh said that VW’s research shows an electric car will be on top of many consumers’ shopping lists either the next time they buy a vehicle, or upon their following trip to the market.

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Besides Tesla, Keogh said General Motors Co. also appears dedicated to selling electric vehicles and will be a key competitor. The Detroit-based automaker has said it plans to sell 20 electric cars globally by 2023.

Toyota’s Carter remains unconvinced. He said after his speech that Toyota will sell an electric model in the U.S., but declined to say when.

“This is going to be a slow evolution in the U.S. market, unlike in China and Europe where there are government regulations” hastening electrification, Carter said in an interview. “Nobody is selling electric vehicles at a profitable margin.”

(Reporting by by David Welch and Chester Dawson)

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