Toyota Execs Stunned by Tesla Model Y Teardown, Called ‘Work of Art’: Report

Photo: Toyota (via Auto News)

A new leadership team under the coming Toyota CEO Koji Sato is increasingly embracing electric vehicles (EVs), especially after a recent teardown of Tesla’s Model Y SUV.

A recent study of the Model Y held by Toyota executives has lit a refreshed motivation to embrace EVs at the Japanese company, as detailed to Automotive News, citing unnamed executives following the teardown.

The team is currently working on a next-generation EV platform set to hit vehicles launching in 2026. Despite being the world’s largest automaker and a pioneer of EVs with the Prius in 1997, Toyota still has a long way to go to catch up with Tesla’s market dominance in battery-electric vehicles (BEVs).

“Taking the skin off the Model Y, it was truly a truly work of art,” one Toyota executive said about the teardown under the condition of anonymity. “It’s unbelievable.”

The Model Y teardown showed Toyota its manufacturing prowess had been usurped by Tesla. The Model Y looked the same on the outside, but underneath was completely changed. Specifically, giga castings used by Tesla replaced hundreds of parts, while the structural battery pack was the floor of the vehicle. It’s likely the Toyota team tore down a Model Y from Giga Austin with the latest 4680 structural battery pack.

Toyota estimated Tesla’s manufacturing innovation had eliminated hundreds of parts and possibly up to 220 pounds. “It’s a whole different manufacturing philosophy,” said one unnamed executive.

Tesla CEO Elon Musk has long stated the company’s “long term competitive advantage” would be its manufacturing technology–essentially the machines that build the machines at its Gigafactories.

“We cannot immediately compete in terms of cost of manufacturing and batteries with companies such as Tesla or BYD,” said one unnamed Toyota executive, that was close to the new EV plan. “If BYD tests their batteries to a life span of 100,000 kilometers, we test ours to 200,000.”

The news comes just a few weeks after current Toyota CEO Akio Toyoda announced plans to shift to a boardroom position as Sato takes over.

“To deliver attractive BEVs to more customers, we must streamline the structure of the car, and — with a BEV-first mindset — we must drastically change the way we do business, from manufacturing to sales and service,” Sato said in a recent statement about the takeover.

“Now that the time is right, we will accelerate BEV development with a new approach.”