Toyota's Late Offensive - PC Trends

Toyota’s Late Offensive – PC Trends

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The Japanese group is the exception in the sector. Pioneer of the hybrid car, he lacked enthusiasm for 100% electric cars. Toyota has changed its mind and is embarking very seriously on this niche. The first models arrive.

Toyota took its time before embarking on the electric car. The bZ4X SUV model (bZ for beyond zero), which will arrive in Belgium in the coming weeks, will be the first version of a range of battery-powered cars. “There will be seven models,” says Michael Roosen, managing director of Toyota Lexus Belgium & Luxembourg. Lexus, the premium brand of the group will follow, with the RZ model.

Toyota took its time before embarking on the electric car. The bZ4X SUV model (bZ for beyond zero), which will arrive in Belgium in the coming weeks, will be the first version of a range of battery-powered cars. “There will be seven models,” says Michael Roosen, managing director of Toyota Lexus Belgium & Luxembourg. Lexus, the premium brand of the group will follow, with the RZ model. It’s a surprise because Toyota has long distinguished itself by ignoring the electric car. The Japanese group, world number one, defended its way of reducing CO2 emissions. For more than 20 years, before anyone else, he has been developing self-charging hybrid engines. At present, more than 70% of Toyotas sold in Belgium (Yaris, Corolla, RAV4, etc.) are equipped with this type of traction, consisting of a gasoline engine and an electric motor. A device that reduces fuel consumption and CO2 emissions, especially in town. For the future, the brand has so far relied on hydrogen-based engines. Toyota markets a hydrogen car, the Mirai, whose sales remain confidential. This strategy has so far excluded the battery-powered electric car. Akio Toyoda, the group’s CEO, has long criticized the wave in favor of electric vehicles that has swept since Tesla took off. He defended self-charging hybrid motorization, which is more economical to purchase than an electric one and which does not require charging infrastructure. However, changing legislation has prompted Toyota to review its strategy. Public regulations increasingly favor a transition to full electric vehicles. This is the case in Europe, where the Commission wants to limit the sale of cars to zero carbon models in 2035. In December 2021, Akio Toyoda announced the change of course. It promises the sale of 3.5 million electric cars per year by 2030, plans 30 models within eight years and promises to invest 35 billion dollars in this technology. This announcement is in addition to the hybrid models that Toyota does not give up selling in countries where they will still be marketable. The group, of world stature, considers that it must offer the choice of engines according to the markets and the requests. The sale of hybrids using zero-emission fuels (e-fuel), a concept still under development, is thus part of Toyota’s projects. The group still hopes that the hydrogen car will break through, but it will take a long time. The offer is poor (only Toyota and Hyundai in Belgium) and the pumps are too rare. Aid to develop green hydrogen in Europe could tomorrow push this type of motorization, but this horizon is still very vague. Toyota has the means to make up for the lost time for the electric. It has the necessary financial base and the competence. His long experience in hybrids has given him a thorough knowledge of electrification. Hydrogen cars are also electric vehicles, whose current is provided by a fuel cell powered by hydrogen. Akio Toyoda has promised that the group should be distinguished by a very moderate gluttony of the new electric models, at 12.5 kWh per 100 km, which is very moderate, but we will have to see on parts. Toyota guarantees the battery for up to 10 years and 1 million kilometers if the vehicle is maintained in the brand’s network (200,000 km for the rest of the car). “In addition to hybrid vehicles, the manufacturer is working to accelerate its electric car initiatives, notes analyst Tatsuo Yoshida of Bloomberg, in a report on the group. Including investments in the supply of batteries, to catch up with the electric car leaders like Tesla.” The bZ4X SUV will therefore inaugurate this electric offensive of the Japanese manufacturer. It arrives in time in Belgium to interest the company car market, where the tax advantages will be reserved for zero CO2 cars from 2026. “By 2025, we will be offering six models from the bZ range, says Michael Roosen. The Lexus offer will be fully electric by 2030.” This start is affected, for the time being, by a recall of 2,700 vehicles, generally not delivered, due to a potential defect in the fixing of the wheels, which Toyota hopes to resolve quickly. None of these cars arrived in Belgium. It’s an unfortunate setback, but it doesn’t affect electrical technology per se. For now, if Toyota does not yet offer an electric car, its premium brand Lexus markets a battery-powered UX300e SUV, with an average range (313 km according to WLTP standards). It is developed on a hybrid platform used for other Lexus. The Toyota/Lexus offensive is serious and massive. The group has developed a modular pure electric platform, e-TNGA, where the batteries form the basis of a kind of skateboard on which different bodies are available, depending on the model. This approach, also used by VW and aimed at large volumes, reduces unit costs and accelerates the release of new models. The bZ4X will boast a WLTP range of up to 513 km. Which is about the level reached by the most recent competing models on the market (VW ID. 4, Tesla Y, Audi Q4 e-tron, etc.). Other models should follow, including a smaller SUV, a larger one and a sedan, if we are to believe the prefigurations shown by Akio Toyoda last December. Do not expect a miracle on prices: the bZ4x model will be sold in Belgium from 49,920 euros, which is the price for the electric segment, at the level of a VW ID. 4, but significantly below the Tesla Model Y which starts at 65,990 euros, with a similar autonomy. Toyota’s electric SUV remains more expensive than its fuel cousin, the RAV4, which starts, excluding promotions, at 41,250 euros. Individuals are rather very interested in the current self-charging hybrid models, the heart of sales. The brand even displays remarkable performances in a market where individuals hardly buy (see the box “Sales up sharply”). The price achieved by gasoline has made hybrid Toyotas particularly attractive. An average gasoline car easily consumes 6 to 8 liters per 100 km, a Toyota hybrid model drops to 5 liters, and even less in the city. This progress confirms Toyota’s progressive strategy in reducing CO2 emissions. As they consume less, self-charging hybrids emit less greenhouse gases. Thus, 2 liters saved per 100 km means almost 4.6 kg less CO2. With a more affordable price than an electric car of equivalent size. Another argument may have helped Toyota lately. The manufacturer has made efforts on the design side to attract European customers. Toyota models haven’t always turned heads in Europe. The Prius, however very innovative, did not charm motorists as much as the Tesla, American electric cars using a Germanic design. “The latest Corollas are very attractive,” says Michael Roosen. They replaced less attractive Auris. The latest generation of Yaris has also made a leap to get closer to European tastes. Toyota has a long way to go here. It is currently number 7 on the Belgian market, which is a big difference from its first place in the world.

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