Recently, we reported that Toyota has created a new team headed by Shigeki Terashi, formerly the company’s chief competitive officer, to lead Toyota out of its decades-long denial that electric cars are the future. Now it appears the new strategy is starting to take hold inside the company.
Reuters says that more Toyota insiders have been on the phone in the wee hours of the morning to whisper about the changes taking place within the company. Specifically, they say Toyota is considering a plan to dramatically increase production of the bZ4X (and by extension, its alter ego, the Subaru Solterra) from 1,000 a month today to 6,000 a month or even 12,000 a month by 2025.
That’s the good news. The bad news is Toyota is hedging its bets by saying this newfound EV momentum depends on it being able to obtain the computer chips, battery packs, and other critical components needed to support that level of production. It’s promise reminds us of the oft quoted aphorism popular in America — “God willing and the creek don’t rise.”
All we can say about this news is that by 2025, the design for the bZ4X will be seven years old or more. Seven years just happens to be the median life span for an automotive design. The bZ4X is built on the semi-antiquated e-TNGA platform that was designed to allow Toyota to build electric cars on the same assembly lines used to manufacture conventional cars with gasoline and hybrid (self charging?) powertrains.
In other words, by 2025 the bZ4X will be obsolete. In what dream universe does Toyota think customers will be flocking to its dealerships to purchase a car that is so out of date compared to the competition? Do they think people will be so impressed with the reliability of their 2009 Corollas that they will just buy whatever electric cars Toyota decides to build? That is pretty much the definition of hubris. This does not seem like a reasonable and rational business plan.
The bZ4X has been generally panned by the motoring press. It is not particularly fast. It doesn’t have a frunk or exceptional interior room. Its charging speed is quite a bit slower than the competition, its efficiency is inferior to other electric cars, and its range is so-so. Not only that, it’s not exactly like Toyota is selling these cars for bargain basement prices, even though they are bargain basement cars at best.
Those anonymous sources tell Reuters that ramping up production of the bZ4X would ensure that Toyota would still have a “presence” in battery-electrics while the new electrification team completes its review. At the high end of the increased projection, Toyota would be producing over 190,000 of the EVs per year. By comparison, Toyota sold just under 86,000 of the standard hybrid Prius hatchback in 2021.
A 2-year window ahead of any ramp-up in production for bZ4X reflects the time needed to get suppliers to commit, the difficulty Toyota and other automakers face in sourcing automotive chips, and the still uncertain sales outlook for the new EV, one of the people with knowledge of the plan said.
Really, Toyota? This is your best shot? The odds of the company surviving until the next decade just got a little longer.
[Note: our treatment of Toyota might not be quite so harsh if the company had not been deliberately misleading people with its disingenuous media campaign that calls its hybrids “self charging electric cars” for years and if it didn’t cast its lot in with the despicable Scott Pruitt and Andrew Wheeler when they conspired to strip California of its ability to set its own vehicle pollution standards.
If Toyota disappeared from the constellation of automotive companies, there would be few tears around CleanTechnica’s intergalactic headquarters.Your opinion may vary. See dealer for details.]
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