The "father of the Prius" said this week that his company plans to continue to push the state of the art in hybrid technology, and added that most consumers aren't yet ready for pure electric vehicles.
"The reason why Toyota doesn't introduce any major (all-electric product) is because we do not believe there is a market to accept it," Takeshi Uchiyamada said in an interview with The Wall Street Journal following a speech at the Economic Club of Washington D.C. on Monday. Uchiyamada, now serving as chairman of Toyota Motor Corp., added that electric vehicles still need breakthroughs in battery technology before they can lock down a position as mainstream products.
Toyota says it will continue to invest in the Prius family of hybrids. (Source: Toyota Motor Corp.)
Uchiyamada's comments were consistent with Toyota's longtime message. Over the past few years, the giant automaker has repeatedly insisted that pure electric vehicles don't offer the range and cost necessary to appeal to mainstream consumers, which is why its engineers opted to design a plug-in version of the Prius in 2011, rather than a battery-electric. "We think that a very, very small number of people will buy a car for their average use, rather than their exceptional use," Bill Reinert, national manager of advanced technology vehicles for Toyota Motor Sales USA, told Design News in 2011. "Even if you're covered in 90 percent of the cases, you're unlikely to buy a car that leaves you uncovered 10 percent of the time."
Toyota currently offers one pure EV to the automotive marketplace. The RAV4 EV uses a lithium-ion battery and electric powertrain from partner company, Tesla Motors. When the vehicle rolled out in 2012, Toyota stated it would build just 2,600 of them over three years.
In contrast, Toyota is investing heavily in its next-generation Prius. The company plans to boost the Prius' fuel economy by 10 percent or more, meaning it could have a combined fuel economy rating of 55 mpg or more.
Over the past year, the world's biggest automaker has increasingly become a minority in its reluctance to go pure electric. This year, BMW rolled out its i3 electric car and Volkswagen announced plans to make a serious step toward electrification. Tesla and Smart also have pure EVs coming out next year.
In the past, Toyota has credited itself with laying much of the groundwork for today's electric car movement, especially in terms of motors, batteries, and electronics. The company has also said many times that the pure electric car has never been off its radar, but it has nevertheless insisted that the hybrid is more than just an interim solution. "Some people say hybrid vehicles such as the Prius are only a bridge to the future," Uchiyamada reportedly said this week. "But we think it could be a long bridge and a very sturdy one. There are many more gains we can achieve with hybrids."
Interesting article Chuck. Looks like Toyota has concluded that EVs will not catch on any time soon. Perhaps Tesla has cornered a narrow niche and that's it. It says a lot that a company like Toyota doesn't envision a world of EVs.
Rob, this also seems to align to an earlier DN article about Japanese cars waiting on the newest tech until it is reliable and affordable. Maybe Toyota is just able to see the big picture of profitibility. I also do not recall Toyota accepting a government structured bailout.
GTOlover, this is generally the case with the Japanese companies. Their approach is mass market. Many car companies make marque cars to stimulate interest, but the real money in cars is the mass market vehicle.
The comment about bail outs is interesting as well. Don't forget, it is the union benefit kicker of $2K per vehicle that put American companies at risk. Toyota, and many other foreign companies are doing very well in their US plants.
Toyota built its reputation on long-lasting, reliable cars with low repair cost. In 2010, Toyota claimed "80% of all Toyotas sold in the last 20 years are still on the road today."
The more accurate truth is that about 45% of Toyotas sold between 1990 and 1998 are still on the road. That's still impressive. Toyota may be smart enough to wait and see what dominates the market and has longevity.
Many of the EV vs Hybrid discussions take me back to the beta vs VHS debates.
"The more accurate truth is that about 45% of Toyotas sold between 1990 and 1998 are still on the road. That's still impressive. Toyota may be smart enough to wait and see what dominates the market and has longevity. "
NadineJ, there is no doubt for that vehicles from Toyota are good enough to sustain at any conditions of road or tearstain or even dessert. Am using Toyota Land cruiser for more than 12 years, still its in good condition and maintenance cost is also very less
I agree, Nadine, Toyotas are dependable. They have dominated the Consumer Reports reliability ratings for many years. In this year's ratings, none of the twenty cars on a list called, "These used cars spell trouble," none were Toyotas.
Charles, I guess EVs are quite expensive and is out of reach from common person . It has its own niche and target market . According to me Toyota is just sticking with its Prius because they are watching and analyzing how EV technology is growing instead of making large investments and going under losses . I have read some where the other day that toyota is planning to bypass this EV technology and is interested in feul cell technology, where hydrogen ran through feul cell with water as its byproduct
Yes, Debera, Toyota has said that they want to put cars with hydrogen fuel cells in global markets by 2015. The company's Fuel Cell Hybrid demonstration vehicle has a single-tank driving range of 431 miles and an equivalent fuel efficiency of 68 mpg. Even with those vehicles, however, the fuel cell market will be virtually microscopic for many years to come. See link below.
Apparently, Toyota knows enough to stay back from EV's until the battery technology makes the next quantum leap in energy density. It's a very apt description of why EV's aren't taking off with the public. Toyota seems to put it more elegantly.
Nobody is forgetting about EV's, but the technical issues remain to thwart widespread adoption despite the exuberence of their fans.
Yes, I agree that Toyota seems to be wisely cautious. You certainly can't make somebody buy something they don't want -- even if you give them money to do it. And while widespread sales of hybrids and EVs would go a long way to reaching CAFE standards, I don't think that market of EV and hybrid buyers is going to grow fast enough to be much help.
"The reason why Toyota doesn't introduce any major (all-electric product) is because we do not believe there is a market to accept it," "
Charles, I think it's a wrong statement from Toyota. When we look to EU and US automobile market, EVs have large demand and hence companies can have sell their vehicles very easily. Since Toyota is basically a Japanese company, there may not be much scope at Japan and neighborhood countries.
GREAT NEWS! This presents the opportunity for GM, Ford, and now Tesla to get America back on top as the Global Automotive Superpower it once was with EVs and PHEVs!
They clearly haven't reviewed the adoption of EVs (and PHEVs) in comparison to hybrids. Hybrid adoption was essentially linear during their first 3 years while EVs have been exponential!
This is typical of the conservacism from Toyota (just like the boring design of the best selling automobile in the US - the Camry) They have no guts and will reap no glory. They will sit back and let the risk-taking Americans lead the world into our rEVolution of the automobile. I can't wait for them to fail . . .
Don't hold your breathe my friend....Toyota's statement is probably the most intellegent , practical assessment of the viability of the EV market on a mass scale.
At present, the ONLY way EV's have any prayer of "competing" is through massive government subsidies, and other "incentives" ; otherwise, only the richest among us can even afford to buy one.
My personall experience with a Prius as a semi-long-term rental convinced me of the hybrid practicality, economy, and the genius of the concept. The increase in mileage was huge (compared to a conventional powertrain), the operational requirements were seamless; no worry of finding somehwere to "plug-in"... just the hassle of that is enough for me....performance was on par with any other similar conventioanl vehicle.
I now have a Ford hybrid (a bit older, but working great...). EV in my book has a long way to go...
Whichever way you look at it, a good company should be able to analyze and understand the market demand and convenience. For me Toyota seems to be doing just that. By holding back the EV and sticking to the Prius, they are simply trying to give the market what they think is most convenient for it. Anyway, the EVs are aqually really a fascinating feature in the car market.
A half century ago, cars were still built by people, not robots. Even on some of the country’s longest assembly lines, human workers installed windows, doors, hoods, engines, windshields, and batteries, with no robotic aid.
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