In California Toyota is discontinuing its EV program in favor of hydrogen fuel cells, but in China Toyota is launching the Leahead brand devoted to cheap electric cars. CarNewsChina reports that when it launches next year, the Leahead brand will hawk cheap electric cars to young buyers (just as we predicted earlier this year).
Toyota currently has two joint-partnerships in China, one with FAW and the other with Ghuangzhou, with Leahead being formered with the latter company. Toyota first hinted at the new brand last year at the Shanghai Auto Show with an unnamed concept car, and the Leahead brand will supposedly launch with an electric version of the Corolla EX in 2015. There are no other details of the brand except that its name is supposed to mean “Leap Ahead” in a nod to its electric roots.
When I hear “Leap Ahead” in reference to anything from China though, I think of Chairman Mao’s disastrous “Great Leap Forward” program wherein millions if people died through flawed national policies. Toyota’s new electric car brand is far more benign than that, but maybe not the name I would have gone with. The idea of a youth-oriented EV brand specifically for China is a good idea though, and perhaps Toyota should consider a similar revamp of Scion here in the US.
It seems Toyota hasn’t given up on EVs entirely, as long as there are government incentives on hand to encourage EV sales. With China predicted to be the biggest EV market in the world in just five years, investing in EVs is probably the right move…but what about that bullishness on the superiority of hydrogen fuel cell vehicles? Outside of Toyota’s home market, hydrogen fuel cell vehicles have little support, and without that support a hydrogen fuel economy seems like little more than a dream.