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Is Toyota falling behind in the electric car race?

CarsGuide logo CarsGuide 30/09/2022 Matt Campbell

The rush towards an electrified car landscape continues, and Toyota seems to be running behind schedule.

Competitor brands as diverse as MG, Mazda, Nissan, Hyundai and Kia all have fully electric vehicles in their ranges. Some even have more than one.

But Toyota is yet to join the fray, despite being an industry leader when it comes to environmentally focused motoring for more than two decades.

So, what’s the hold up? Toyota Australia vice president for sales, marketing and franchise operations, Sean Hanley, said the brand is on the path to offering an EV, and that he’s frankly been offended by suggestions that the Toyota brand is anti-EV.

“We are not opposed to battery electric vehicles at all,” said Mr Hanley.

“In fact, we're bringing our first one in the next 12 months. So we're not opposed,” said Mr Hanley, referring to the bZ4X SUV that it will offer. That model is a co-developed crossover with Subaru (their version is called Solterra), and both will hit showrooms in 2023.

“We've been on this journey for 22 years, not the last two or three when it suddenly become mindful for people,” said Mr Hanley, referring to the brand’s focus on petrol-electric hybrid vehicles - the segment pioneered by the Prius, and now dominated by the brand’s RAV4 hybrid.

“When you look at the electrified market in Australia, and you go back to October 2001, in this country, not necessarily globally, this country, where Honda [with the Insight] offered the first hybrid offering, but never consistently stayed the market for whatever reason, then we launched Prius, as you know, and since then Toyota has had a consistent hybrid offering for the last 22 years,” he said.

“Hybrid is now representing 30 per cent of our sales mix going forward. So therefore, it's taken every bit of 22 years to get to this point.

© CarsGuide.com.au

“I'm not suggesting for one minute that full electrification is going to take another 22 years, I don't think it will, I think it'll mature. So, the market is moving, the sentiment towards BEV [battery electric vehicles] is moving, and the sentiment towards some form of electric electrification is also moving. So not everybody sees only BEV as the only solution here.

“[Consumers] see hybrid as an alternative. They see plug-in hybrid as an alternative. They see battery electric vehicles and maybe fuel-cell electric vehicles in the future as an alternative. In the end, it doesn't really matter what we at Toyota, or any other OEM want - [it’s about] what the customer wants, what they can afford, and what that mobility solution could do for them.”

Mr Hanley further said that the brand - which was recently called out as one of the largest polluters, by Greenpeace - is focused on lessening its carbon footprint, and that CO2 emissions are the real battleground, more so than what’s under the bonnet of your new car.

“All we're asking is, don't make powertrains the enemy - make carbon the enemy,” he said.

Toyota's massive global backlog revealed. © CarsGuide.com.au Toyota's massive global backlog revealed.

“Our job is to reduce our carbon footprint. And the great thing is there's not a car company in the world right now that wouldn't say we got to reduce our carbon footprint, not one. Certainly not us,” he said.

“The only thing we disagree on, to some extent, is how and when we get there, right? So, our role is you've got to take everybody on the journey. Otherwise, this potentially will make carbon neutrality a long, drawn-out program. If you take consumers on the journey with technology that reduces your carbon footprint, we believe you'll get there quicker.”

Mr Hanley also stated in this conversation with CarsGuide that the brand has seen a change in buyer attitudes towards plug-in hybrid vehicles, and also confirmed the brand will offer such a model in the future - though wouldn’t be drawn to confirm if it will be the Toyota RAV4 Prime, which seems to be the brand’s best plug-in hybrid option for the Australian market.

Toyota's current hybrid powertrain offering spans the Yaris, Corolla and Camry passenger cars, and the Yaris Cross, C-HR, upcoming Corolla Cross, RAV4 and Kluger SUVs

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