After nearly a decade without a pure electric vehicle in its lineup, Toyota rolled out the RAV4 EV in 2012. With battery and electric powertrain supplied by Tesla Motors, the RAV4 EV has the makings of a hit. The New York Times described the drive as “transformational.” Southern California AAA ranked it the Top Green Car in 2013. The RAV4 EV is essentially a bargain Tesla, wrapped in the body of a proven-in-the-field, high-utility Toyota. Who wouldn’t like it?
Well, it appears that Toyota doesn’t.
“Salesmen literally try to convince you not to buy it,” said Mike Bornstein of Bakersfield, California, a RAV4 EV owner interviewed by Plug-in Cars. “Toyota only sells it in California, and only at 25 select dealers in California near six selected large cities.”
Toyota treats the RAV4 EV like an ugly stepchild it would rather just ignore. Owners have complained that it’s nearly impossible to get their vehicles serviced. Although Jana Hartline, a Toyota environmental spokeswoman, explained that Toyota can and does provide routine maintenance for RAV4 EVs at local dealers, RAV4 EV owners deny this.
“Toyota WILL NOT provide routine service to RAV4 EVs outside of their 25 [specially designated EV] dealers,” wrote Jspearman in the MyRAV4EV.com’s forum. “Despite the fact I paid an extra $1,200 for Toyota Extra Care, it doesn’t matter. I have to drive 2 1/2 hours to a certified dealer to even get a firmware update. Lousy service. I promise that I will never ever own another Toyota unless they get their act together.”
Other owners express exasperation after showing up for scheduled maintenance at one of the specially designated EV dealers, only to be sent home because no qualified tech is available. Problems are especially acute for out-of-state owners, who really have to jump through hoops to get service and can’t get the free 5,000- and 10,000-mile ToyotaCare service or roadside assistance.
Why is Toyota so disinterested in providing a good experience to their RAV4 EV customers? It’s a good question. Perhaps the answer lies in Toyota’s long-standing opposition to the California Air Resources Board’s (CARB) Zero-Emissions Vehicle (ZEV) mandate.
“The mandate is a train wreck waiting to happen,” said David Hermance, executive engineer of environmental engineering at Toyota Technical Center, when CARB was still considering the mandate in 2000. “If the California Air Resources Board makes us build the vehicles, we’ll build them. But they’ll just end up sitting on the lots.”
Hermance’s prophecy has partly come true. The 2012 timing of RAV4 EV’s launch suggests that Toyota is only building the vehicle as a “compliance car” to satisfy the 2012-2014 chapter of CARB’s ZEV mandate. But the cars aren’t sitting on the lots. And it seems apparent to everyone but Toyota, that the company is missing a golden opportunity to sell a car to a hungry demand.
Maybe Toyota should show its all-electric line a little love.
News Source: Plug-in Cars