Toyota Australia says it will not bring electric vehicles to Australia because it says Australians cannot or are not willing to pay high prices for electric vehicles.
Toyota Australia vice president of sales and marketing Sean Hanley says customers do not want to or cannot afford to pay that much up front (notwithstanding the lower maintenance costs and the absence of fluctuating fuel prices).
“I always get concerned when pure electric vehicle turn up at fairly big prices, and people instantly think people will buy them and they’ll take off,” Mr Hanley said in a conversation with Cars Guide writer Andrew Chesterton.
“But if there’s one thing I’ve learned on the hybrid journey it’s that they have to be affordable.
“I get frustrated when people say electrification isn’t being taken up in Australia as quickly as it should be. Well, who is going to buy these small cars for $50,000?”
All well and good, but there are a few distinct reasons Australians pay a lot for electric vehicles, not least because of currency conversions and import costs thanks to the shutdown of an Australian car manufacturing industry.
The general view is that “price parity” will be reached sometime in the next decade, possibly as early as five years, but that would largely depend on enough vehicles being available.
Australia has no EV policy, and also lacks fuel emissions regulations such as in the US and Europe, where policies have been guided to make electric vehicles more affordable and accelerate uptake.
But even if there were incentives for Australians to buy electric vehicles, Toyota has not even fully dipped its toe into electric vehicle development when compared against other legacy carmakers.
Although a pioneer of hybrid vehicles – its Prius has become one of the best known hybrid vehicles around the world and its electrified Camry and Corolla have proven popular sellers – Toyota has dragged its feet.
To date, it has revealed an ultra-compact battery electric vehicle at the 2019 Tokto Motor Show that it will release in Japan in 2020.
In November it unveiled its first electric vehicle under luxury brand Lexus, the UX300e which will go on sale in China and Europe in 2020 and Japan in 2021.
In Australia however, Toyota – which was stunned when its RAV4 hybrid outstripped sales of its petrol stablemate 2 to 1 in May – will not jump to bring in electric vehicles.
“We’ve got an offering that achieves lower C02, lower fuel consumption, its reliable, proven, affordable, in a hybrid-electric car. It might not be the end game, but it’s not a transition strategy either,” Mr Hanley told Cars Guide.
“We certainly wouldn’t rule it out, but in the short term? No. Our strategy is clear, it’s hybrid-electric.”
Bridie Schmidt is lead reporter for The Driven, sister site of Renew Economy. She specialises in writing about new technology and has been writing about electric vehicles for two years. She has a keen interest in the role that zero emissions transport has to play in sustainability and is co-organiser of the Northern Rivers Electric Vehicle Forum.