The Toyota Prius made the word “hybrid” a household name, and it has given Toyota a huge lead in the hybrid car market. Toyota will stick with hybrids as other automakers play with electric cars. Mistake, or good game plan?
You really can’t blame Toyota for wanting to stick with a winning strategy. The Prius is the best selling hybrid in the world. Also, Toyota did play around with electric cars, selling a 100-mile electric Rav4 for five years (from 1998 to 2003). They sold just under 1,500 of those in five years. Very sad, but not unexpected when you don’t market the damn car. While Toyota did bring the electric Rav4 back (with the help of Tesla), Toyota doesn’t expect to sell them. Instead, they predict they will sell almost a million hybrids a year by 2015, 10% of their total sales.
In addition to traditional hybrids like the Prius, Toyota is also working on a plug-in hybrid that will operate like the Volt, with a small all-electric range and an extended gas-powered range. Toyota apparently feels electric cars will remain a niche market in the coming years, and they could be right. Even with their partnership with Tesla though, is Toyota running the risk of falling behind other automakers?
Nissan and GM are both putting their own version of the electric car on the road in the coming months. Ford has an electric Focus coming next year. Everybody is getting in on the electric car game it seems, except Toyota (and Chrysler). Is Toyota going to end up as the next GM, stuck in its old ways because the old ways work? Let us hope not.
Source: Technology Review
Chris DeMorro is a writer and gearhead who loves all things automotive, from hybrids to Hemis. You can follow his slow descent into madness at Sublime Burnout.