Toyota’s progress towards offering the option of an all-hybrid model line-up gains momentum with the launch of hybrid RAV4s in April next year. The new, fifth-generation, RAV4 is the first Toyota SUV hybrid available in Australia and effectively replaces the current diesel version.
Sean Hanley, vice president National Sales and Marketing Operations for Toyota Australia, expects the RAV4 hybrid to take at least, “20 percent of all RAV4 sales” but admits, “That’s our target. It’s pessimistic and we’ll do a lot better”.
Currently, hybrid Camrys account just under half of all Camry deliveries (48 percent), while the new Corolla hybrid captured a third of sales in its first two months (August and September) of deliveries, jumping to a staggering 46 percent of Corolla orders in October.
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As if to emphasis Toyota’s increasingly hybrid credentials, Hanley’s computer proudly wears a sticker proclaiming the company’s internal mantra, “Toyota Hybrid: Lead the Drive.”
“Hybrid (sales) are taking off because it is normal,” says Hanley. “You just get in and drive, there are no charging worries. It has got to be priced right and affordable so that it does not compromise in any sense. ”
However, he admits Toyota is, “acutely aware that one single technology is not going to be enough. We will not only have hybrid, but we will pioneer hydrogen technology and, at some point, plug-in (electric) cars by 2030 and beyond. Plug-in is one option of many.”
With the popularity of SUVs on an inexorable rise (YTD 42.9 percent of the total market, up from 39.1 percent in 2017), Toyota plans to offer the hybrid in both front and all-wheel drive variants. Utilising the Camry’s 2.5-litre 155kW/221Nm hybrid drive train with a CVT automatic transmission, the hybrid RAV4 is the most powerful model in the new line-up. Toyota claims the base 2.0-litre engine delivers 127kW and the 2.5 petrol 152kW. Petrol versions will deliver up to 7.8l per 100km combined consumption, while the hybrid achieves 6.0l/100km.
The new RAV4, styled and engineered in Japan, despite adopting the aggressive front end styling of Toyota’s American 4Runner and Tacoma pick-up trucks, will offer three model levels and three drive-trains (four if the manual version of the 2.0-litre is included) in Australia.
“Instead of the soft, curvy shapes of previous RAV4s, the new model is a more dedicated SUV appearance that takes its inspiration from trucks” claims Hanley. Unlike the American cars produced in Canada, Australian RAVs, manufactured in Japan, won’t have Apple Car Play from launch. Toyota is looking at alternative technologies, but has yet to commit though Hanley admits the company is also testing Android systems and Amazon Alexa voice activation, all of which are offering on RAV4s sold in America.
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At this stage Hanley won’t talk price, but given the Hybrid drive train adds just $1500 to the cost of a Corolla and $2300 to a Camry, the RAV Hybrid is expected to add around $2000 to the price of comparative petrol models.
Toyota Australia is committed to offering 10 hybrid models by the middle of 2020 – the new RAV4 takes it to six – while globally Toyota claims that by 2025 every model with offer hybrid or electric versions. Of the current line-up, Toyota has the option of adding hybrid versions of the CH-R, Yaris and Kluger, which are all available in hybrid forms elsewhere.
Famously, Toyota was beaten by Honda in being first to the local market with a hybrid in 2001. The original Honda’s Insight went on sale just before the Toyota Prius hit local showrooms in October 2001, but sales of the expensive two-seater coupe were slow and it was withdrawn in 2004.