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Toyota — Is It Circling The Drain?

I remember when the Prius was launched in Australia. There was a lot of Fear Uncertainty and Doubt cast upon this innovative vehicle. Would the batteries last? It’s too expensive. Who would want to buy that? Sound familiar? But it didn’t seem too long before they were being used as taxis and Toyota extended the technology to rest of its fleet. For two decades, the Toyota technology has reigned supreme, and millions of cars worldwide attest to its success.

I believe that Toyota deserves a great deal of credit for its pioneering work with mild hybrids. But I also believe that it is time for Toyota to let go of its past success and the present delusion of hydrogen-powered vehicles and move into full BEV production. If not, then it may well be that Toyota is circling the drain. A recent Facebook conversation on this topic yielded many comments and stories. I will share the best here. One commentator put it this way: “It’s all about smart vision and the fastest to market and Toyota management has just tied its shoe laces together with its very late response.”

There is no doubt that Toyota has the size and the smarts to quickly catch up in the race for BEV market share, but does it have the vision? Past success and the promise of a hydrogen future can blur your vision. A cursory glance at the market share of Toyota’s conventional hybrids (HEVs) in mature markets shows that they are declining as fast as petrol and diesel-powered cars.

However, Toyota’s technology is still enjoying enormous success outside of Europe and China. This is for a good reason. In some areas it is the best you can get for the price. As such, this transitional technology should not be demonised. As one correspondent wrote: “It’s surely all a transition and not an instant unachievable straight switch. We ordered our RAV hybrid 3 years ago when there were almost nil PHEV or BEV options. So, for almost 2.5 years I have pretty much halved my fuel use compared with our prior vehicle. Is that not a good thing? Have I achieved more than someone who has waited for a BEV?”

Second-hand hybrids might be the answer for those who cannot afford a new BEV at this point in time. Whatever reduces consumption of oil will help the planet.

Another recalled his childhood experience:  “I think of hybrid technology as something from the late ’90s. Toyota really did a great job, and the Prius is actually the vehicle that got me originally excited about EVs. I was about 10 years old when I first saw Toyota ads in my copy of National Geographic, and would tell my father how one day, I’d have an EV.

“Whenever I saw a Prius go past, when it was ‘silent’, I’d point out how it was on ELECTRIC mode!

“However, at a certain point we all grow up. I’m no longer ten years old, and Toyota really should have progressed their technological development further over these past 25 years. A quarter of a century later, I really don’t feel the latest 2022 Toyota hybrid is that whoppingly different than the Prius of 1997.”

Thank you, Toyota. But now it is time to move on or move off.

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David Waterworth is a retired teacher who divides his time between looking after his grandchildren and trying to make sure they have a planet to live on. He is long on Tesla [NASDAQ:TSLA].


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