September 24, 2012
Hybrid Electric-Gas Automobiles Top Priority For Toyota
John Neumann for redOrbit.com - Your Universe Online
“We plan to launch 21 new or full model change hybrids (by the end of 2015),” Takeshi Uchiyamada, Toyota´s vice chairman and R&D head, said at a press conference.
Total sales of hybrid models worldwide, the company predicts, will likely top 1 million this year, with the majority of them being made by Toyota, and projected its own sales would hit that mark every year between 2013 and 2015.
This is a confident strategy; however, the company acknowledges costs must still be cut further to increase profitability and spur sales, writes Chester Dawson for Market Watch.
Toyota offered a sneak peek at an electric compact called eQ, based on its iQ model, in Japan but available in the US in December of this year, though the number of the vehicles made will be extremely limited, with only 100 available for special fleet use, according to the company.
The car, which will be called the iQ EV in the US is not cheap at an estimated $45,000, and comes with a limited cruise range of 62 miles initially. Also available soon in the US, is an electric version of the popular Rav-4 sport utility model, which Toyota worked on with electric vehicle maker Tesla Motors.
This fuel cell mini-SUV goes on sale this month and uses hydrogen to produce electricity. The two companies hopes to sell 2,600 of the $49,800 RAV4 EVs over a three-year period.
Toyota, like many other Japanese automakers, is ready for expansion after many struggles the last few years by the financial crisis and natural disasters in northeastern Japan and Thailand that disrupted production.
The company is also counting on the technology that its hit Prius operates with, will woo buyers and repair its brand battered by the massive recall scandal in the US a few years ago.
However its home-market rivals are not idling by while Toyota ramps up with hybrid innovation. Nissan is focusing on its Leaf electric car. Mazda, not a large car company in relation to others, is focusing on its SkyActiv brand of motors to propel it into the future.
Another challenge is in emerging markets, where demand for autos continues to increase, but not with expensive and exotic technologies, writes Yuri Kageyama for Associated Press.
Uchiyamada mentioned that Toyota is moving ahead with plans to localize production in China of hybrid engines by 2015 and hopes to follow suit in the US, but no firm plans could be shown off as of yet. “We are looking into it, but we haven´t reached a formal decision or made any specific plans yet,” he said.
Uchiyamada said the positive reception for new technologies, such as plug-in hybrids, which work as an electric vehicle until the battery runs down, and then switches to its hybrid motor, surprised Toyota, underlining the deep interest the public has in reducing emissions and protecting the environment.
Sales of Toyota's Prius, which first went on sale in 1997, started out small, with a skeptical market that gradually warmed to the car. However sales have grown to more than one million a year worldwide, comprising 10 percent of Toyota´s global sales. “The public´s consciousness is a lot higher than we ever imagined,” Uchiyamada said.