Toyota has been playing a three-pronged strategy to get the ball rolling again after such a dismal few months by simultaneously launching a major mea culpa with the politicians and public, providing huge incentives for potential customers, and accelerating the announcement of new products to fuel excitement.
After seeing some congressional testimony and watching Toyota execs respond to issues over the last few months, I can’t say that Toyota is doing a very good job with the groveling. But, given that you can find some of the best deals ever for getting yourself in a Prius right now (how does $249 per month for a 3 year lease sound?) and reportedly more and deeper deals on the way, it seems the huge incentives strategy is in full effect.
And in terms of new product announcements, Toyota has been dropping a slew of them which clearly lay out Toyota’s accelerating pace of hybrid deployment including a Hybrid RAV4, a sports coupe to compete with the Honda CR-Z, a larger Prius-based car, and the Lexus CT 200h compact hybrid hatchback. Also rumored is a rear wheel drive Lexus-based hybrid sports car.
The linchpin of this new lineup will be Toyota’s 1.8 liter VVT-i hybrid system, with Lentz saying that it will become the company’s “core powertrain.” All of these cars will hit the market sometime in the next few years, but the Hybrid RAV4 is set for a 2012 debut. Given the sales success of the Ford Escape hybrid, I can only imagine that there will be considerable demand for a RAV4–with the RAV4 potentially even beating out the 34 highway/31 city mpg of the Escape.
Perhaps Toyota’s safety issues and crisis might have been the major stimulus the company needed to break itself out of its recent status quo mentality? Seriously, it seemed like the innovation we’d seen out of Toyota had all of a sudden dried up. But now they have to get back on the ball or risk losing their edge–or more.