According to announcements made yesterday by Toyota Executive Vice President Takeshi Uchiyamada, the company plans to introduce six new hybrid vehicles by the end of 2012. Two of the new hybrids would be Toyota vehicles and two would be Lexus luxury models.
The company did not spell out which models would be offered as hybrids—so we’ll make our predictions. Actually, it’s not too hard to figure out where the hybrid gaps are in the Toyota line-up.
Toyota RAV4 Hybrid
Toyota has been selling the Highlander Hybrid mid-size SUV for several years. But where’s the crossover hybrid? Since 2004, the company has allowed Ford to have top-mpg bragging rights for SUVs with its 32-mpg Escape Hybrid. Toyota has committed to an all-electric version of the RAV4—developed in partnership with Tesla—by around 2012. A conventional hybrid version, with mileage in the mid- to high-30s, makes good sense. Perhaps it will be branded with a Prius badge.
Toyota Sienna Hybrid
Green-leaning sensible family folk have been screaming for a hybrid minivan for years. It appears that Honda will step forward with a hybrid Odyssey in the next couple of years. Could Toyota be far behind?
Toyota Yaris Hybrid
Just last week, Japanese media sources reported that Toyota will begin building a hybrid version of the Yaris next spring in France, mostly for the European market. The company has been hinting at a Prius Junior (or Scion iQ hybrid) for a couple of years—and has been downsizing its hybrids for European and Asian markets. With global economies of scale, a peewee Toyota hybrid could be very competitive on cost and could offer stellar fuel economy just in time for a potential return of $4 gas.
Toyota Corolla Hybrid
This one is a wild guess, but what other model could say more about Toyota’s desire to push hybrids into the mainstream than the Corolla? It would put gas-electric technology right at the heart of the Toyota brand. And with higher fuel-efficiency regulations operating on a sales-weighted basis, any kind of decent take-rate on a hybrid version of the Corolla would go a long way to meeting tougher standards.
The two new Lexus hybrids are harder to predict. That’s because there are already four Lexus hybrids on the market, and yesterday we reported that the 40-mpg-plus Lexus CT200h sporty compact hybrid could be on its way to the U.S. in 2011. If the introduction is pushed to 2012, then it could qualify as one of the six new hybrid models. The other model could be a low-volume screaming fast hybrid sports car—just to support the Lexus brand.
Toyota Plug-ins On the Way
Six new hybrids in two years are an impressive jump forward, but Toyota has no intention of being left out of the emerging market for electric cars and plug-in hybrids. (We’ll cover that action on our sister site, PluginCars.com.)
Toyota’s Uchiyamada yesterday said he expected conventional hybrids, rather than electric cars, to remain dominant for many years because of cost and driving range issues. Yet, he predicted that the plug-in version of the Prius—also coming out in 2012 at a price about $3,000 to $5,000 higher than the current Prius—will eventually become more popular than the non-plug version.