Toyota Motor Corp.’s plans to smoothly start its electric car-sharing experiment in Grenoble, France stumbled into a barrier – the city’s new mayor. Prior to the election in March 2014, the then mayor had vowed to install security cameras at all 27 planned charging stations for Toyota's i-Road three-wheeled electric scooter.
But that mayor lost to Eric Piolle, who refused to fulfill the promise to Toyota, simply because he had run on an anti-surveillance platform. Toyota’s program suffered several instances of vandalism during its first three months, which greatly slowed its introduction.
Because of that, one can hardly see the i-Roads vehicles in the city center – a tall hurdle for Toyota’s sharing program. Several i-Roads have been vandalized since they were placed in September 2014, prompting Toyota to install alarms.
This had led the Japanese company to learn that success in such programs requires strong political backing. "Suddenly, we were told that security cameras were too intrusive," remarked Didier Leroy, chief of Toyota's operations in Europe.
He insisted that while elected officials may change, commitments should be fulfilled. Piolle was notably absent when Toyota launched the Grenoble program in mid-September, even with Toyota Chairman Takeshi Uchiyamada and French Research Minister Genevieve Fioraso gracing the event.
The i-Road is Toyota's effort to pioneer a new model for electric vehicles. Instead of letting customers find out how to use EVs, Toyota is asking them to pay to use its electric scooters.