Next Wave of Japanese Hybrids Heading to US

The number of hybrid gas-electric vehicles offered by Japanese car companies will multiply in the next few years. That’s evidenced by a list of upcoming hybrids reported by the trade publication Automotive News this week—providing a plausible scenario for specific hybrid models coming to the United States around 2011.

We’re not talking about novel concept cars with limited chances of becoming production vehicles. The list is comprised of real and practical mass-produced vehicles to be offered with fuel-efficient hybrid drivetrains. The new hybrids would fill in gaps not previously offered in the hybrid market, such as a gas-electric minivan, subcompact, and pickup truck. Japanese carmakers usually wait to confirm product plans until soon before the release date, so few models are described in Automotive News as a sure thing. But the need to meet higher fuel efficiency standards starting in 2011 increases the likelihood of each proposed model.

Here’s a brand-by-brand rundown.

Toyota

The small Toyota Yaris is due for a redesign for the 2012 model year. Following the trend set by the Prius, the Yaris is likely to get a larger 1.8-liter engine—to replace the current 1.5-liter 106-horsepower engine—and to add a hybrid option. Fuel economy numbers could top the charts. The Avalon full-size sedan will also be redesigned for 2012, providing a good opportunity to introduce a hybrid version. Automotive News appears more certain about a hybrid minivan in the form of the 2012 Toyota Sienna Hybrid—although Toyota insiders told us that a hybrid minivan for the US presents tough technical challenges. A redesigned gas-powered 2011 Sienna debuts early next year.

Scion

The small Toyota A-BAT hybrid pickup concept, which was shown at auto shows in 2008, could be revived as a Scion-badged hybrid pickup. The tiny 2011 Scion iQ, set to compete against the Smart ForTwo, is not a hybrid. But its small size—barely 10 feet long—and a 1.3-liter four-cylinder engine could push its mileage beyond the level of the most efficient hybrids.

Lexus

Lexus ES 350

A hybrid version of the Lexus ES 350 would mean a relatively affordable full-size luxury hybrid sedan.

The entry-level Lexus ES will be redesigned for 2012, and a hybrid version will be added. The ES Hybrid will slot in—with regard to cost and fuel economy—between the hybrid-only Lexus HS 250h, with a sticker price of $34,000, and the much more expensive GS 450h hybrid sedan. We might also see a smaller Lexus model brought to the United States to compete against the BMW 1-series beginning with the 2012 model year. A hybrid version of that vehicle, the Lexus IC, is “on the table,” according to Automotive News.

Honda

Honda Odyssey

The Honda Odyssey could become the first hybrid minivan available in the US. Toyota is also considering a Sienna Hybrid.

Honda discontinued the six-cylinder performance-oriented Honda Accord Hybrid in 2007. It will be brought back, hopefully this time with a focus on efficiency, as early as the 2011 model year. Honda canceled plans for diesel versions of the Accord and the Odyssey minivan, but Automotive News hints that a hybrid Odyssey could happen with the minivan’s redesign for 2011. The previously announced small and sporty CR-Z hybrid will go on sale in spring 2010. Honda is also talking about an all-electric subcompact—but that’s way off into the future, around 2015.

Nissan

Nissan Altima HybridNissan will use its own technology in the 2012 Nissan Altima Hybrid, paving the way for more Nissan hybrids.

Nissan is emphasizing all-electric over hybrid, but the company is hedging its bets. The 100-mile-range electric Nissan Leaf will begin rolling out next year in small numbers late next year. The Altima Hybrid, currently using Toyota technology and only available in eight states, will begin in 2012 to use Nissan’s homegrown hybrid system, which could get applied to other models in the future.

Others

Subaru executives say they are working with Toyota—which owns 16.8 percent Fuji Heavy Industries, the company that builds Subaru Vehicles—to build a hybrid system. If those plans materialize, Subaru’s first hybrid could come in the next two or three years, but the company is not yet committing. The tiny all-electric Mitsubishi i-MiEV is selling in Japan—at a pricey $45,000 minus government subsidies—and is “penciled in” for US market with the 2012 model year.


  • hth

    I am sure a lot of American families are expecting for new fuel-efficient minivans. If Honda offers Hybrid Odyssey it will be very hot and I’m the first one to buy it if the price is affordable.

  • Anonymous

    Minivans are ugly, why buy one? Get a hybrid SUV.

  • crookmatt

    Hybrid Mini-Vans! Why has it taken so long!?

    Most families who need a mini-van can’t fit into a Prius or even most Hybrid SUV’s. Besides, large SUV’s have always been much more expensive than mini-vans so it makes sense that a hybrid mini-van would be less expensive than a large hybrid SUV.

    This has been a niche that has been completely un-tapped in the US.

  • Anonymous

    What about the Honda Fit Hybrid? Is that still happening? Also a Toyota Matrix hybrid would be more useful than a Yaris one.

  • sean t

    Anon,
    That’s what u think. If hth doesn’t need high clearance and 4WD capacity, then Minivan is more suitable, more comfortable.

  • Charles

    Lets see, a minivan handles better, is more comfortable, holds more, is more efficient and costs less. A SUV can go off road. When I go off road I rent a Jeep Wrangler. Give me a minivan for everyday use. A Mazda 5 sized hybrid would be really nice.

  • David

    I’m with Charles. All the same reasons. Before my ex and I bought her Grand Caravan, we looked at SUVs. The difference in capacity was stunning because of how much lower the ‘floor’ in the minivan is. Believe me, bring our older daughter’s gear to college would not have been possible in an SUV – we stuffed the minivan full. It had more headroom, legroom, affordability – you name it.

  • FamilyGuy

    I’d love to see the Mazda5 Hybrid. I priced some mini-vans the other day online and they could run you upwards of $40k when fully loaded. The Mazda5 loaded was only around $27k. That included Nav, Bluetooth and DVD entertainment. As much as I’d like to see a minivan in hybrid, I fear the cost will be through the roof. Especially if you wanted some of the more luxury features.

    Comparing SUV’s to minivans are comparing apples to oranges. Notice that person doesn’t have a login. That person doesn’t care, is a fool and just wants to tease those who do care.

  • Mason Makita

    minivans ugly? howabout the fugly SUV! its silhouette is classic Laidlaw school bus. want pretty/handsome? go buy an M3. unless u tow, suvs are impractical.

    the former big3 thrived on idiots like him

  • Mark NJ

    Try carrying 4 kids, 2 adults and enough luggage/beach toys for a weekend at the shore in anything other than a Suburban?

    My Sienna Limited, rides like a luxury lexus, gets, about 24mpg, is low enough for the kids to get in easily and literlly walk into their seats, can do 0-60 in about 7.2 seconds, has every feature of most luxury cars, has all wheel drive, run flat tires and costs about 40k. It can seat 7 with room to spare, will fit in any garage or parking space, as power electric sliding doors that won’t get bashed into the car next to it, has extremely low insurance rates, one of the highest safety ratings etc.

    I’m married so I’m not looking to look ‘hot’ in my car. Driving an SUV isn’t exactly going to get you ‘action’ either so why spend $20k more for a much less useful vehicle? I used to own a Porsche convertable and never got ‘action’ because of it, so who cares what people think about you.

    Now days (especially sites like these) it’s almost become a stigma to drive a massive SUV (which 95% of the time has one person in it and is NEVER offroad and isn’t even rated for it.

  • Old Man Crowder

    This may be a little off-topic, but I’m wondering why hybrids aren’t considered for things like heavy construction equipment? (The bit about Fuji Heavy Industries made me think of this)

    Things like loaders and excavators aren’t concerned about weight issues or aeordynamics, so why not load those suckers up with batteries and take some of the pressure off the diesel engines?

    Sure, it’s a small market but they idle and pollute like crazy.

    Just a thought.

  • g man

    I have a honda 05 odyssey and willing to trade it in when it (odyssey hybrids) becomes available.

  • otter

    I for one would love to see a hybrid Minivan. With a larger family we need a minivan and gas is certain to go up, so bring on the efficient minivan!

  • Mr.Bear

    Why no Corolla hybrid? I think it makes as much sense as the Yaris. Unless the plan is to dump the Corolla.

  • sean t
  • frannk miller

    Why is Toyota always posted first on this site.

    More Toyota Green washing.

    Furthers the theory everyone has this site is funded and run by Toyota.

  • Anonymous

    SUVs are ugly and stupid. Get a minivan!

  • Anonymous

    Japan has had the Toyota Estima hybrid for almost a decade.

    Agreed with other posters that the Mazda5 would be the perfect vehicle in this class (and have long wished for that). My ultimate version would be electric, with a real-world 100-mile range and Level-3 charge capability.

    Also on the wish list, since it’s possible: make the unibody from carbon fiber, and thermally insulate the cabin. I’d pay 50% more for a car that lasts forever! Oh.. and with the minivan-layout, a solar roof might actually generate a few hundred watts.

  • John K.

    First hybrid mistake Honda made was using hybrid tech as “an electric supercharger” in their Accord. Not only that, but they only offered this “sporty” option in the 4-door, not the 2-door version of the Accord. Strike one, Honda.

    Honda could have offered a hybrid Odyssey years ago when they last offered a hybrid Accord — they both used the same engine and transaxle. What fit in the Accord could fit in the Odyssey, and the minivan would have had more than enough room for the battery pack. Honda could have had a monopoly in that niche market. Strike two, Honda.

    Similarly, rather than waiting to release an expensive 4-seat hybrid sports car (the CR-Z), Honda could have released years ago a hybrid version of their beautiful yet affordable Civic Coupe. Strike three, Honda.

    I’m being polite by ignoring the original Insight that C&D described as being slower than a riding mower and as that very rare car that both understeers and oversteers at the same time . . . LOL!

    Perhaps Honda should have a new motto: “We do hybrids wrong.”

  • Anonymous

    Speaking of Honda, what about the next gen Civic Hybrid?

  • Dave K.

    Frannk: The truth is Toyota is the world leader in hybrid tech, by a lot, so of course a lot is said on this site about Toyota. I also agree with John K. Honda has made some mistakes. But let’s be fair, they at least are playing in the big leagues, #2 in total sales of hybrids and probably #3 in technology (I think Ford is #2). But I have to say I was a Honda guy (owned several of them) until the Gen2 Prius, nothing else came close. I too would like to see a hybrid minivan for families, and whoever builds a small hybrid coupe gets my next new car purachase, are you listening?

  • qqRockyBeans

    I agree with the people that want qa Mazda 5 hybrid
    and I’d also like the manual transmission with it, as well as a sunroof

    Wasn’t Chrysler working on a Caravan hybrid?

  • vinnie ballgame

    Frannck, the guy who runs this site isn’t getting any more from Toyota than you are. As I type this, I see a banner ad for the Cadillac Escalade Hybrid, and a margin ad for the Chevy Tahoe Hybrid. If Toyota indeed owns this site, they need to work on the ROI side. Or charge GM enough so that it goes away. A couple years back, he was among the first people to rip the Lexus GS hybrids. In the same month, I believe, he wrote glowingly about how far one could drive the Mercury Mariner/Ford Escape hybrids in full EV mode, and wondered why the Prius couldn’t do the same. Next time, firmly grasp the fact before swinging it, please.

  • LC

    I have been waiting for a hybrid minivan for the last 3 years. We were hoping the hybrid Sienna was coming out in 2006 but when it didn’t, we got the Odyssey. We seriously looked into the hybrid Highlander as an alternative, but for a family of 5, going on week-long vacations, a van is much roomier and convenient. We’ve driven from NJ to FL with 7 people very comfortably; can’t do that with an SUV unless it’s a monster one like a Suburban. But that’s at a cost to the gas mileage. And the GM ‘hybrids’ on their big SUVs were a joke; the Odyssey gave almost as good mileage and is much cheaper.
    We love Honda and Acura; never liked Toyota until the Gen3 Prius came out. We recently got it and love it. I don’t think we can ever go back to conventional gas cars. It just feels too good to get the great gas mileage. So…Honda …. listen up … if you can get a hybrid Odyssey out in the market, I’ll come back to you.

  • Fern

    Vinnie ballgame, I think the comment about web site being a front for Toyota was referring to the site in sean t’s comment. . . . someone correct me if I am wrong:

    sean t says: 4 days agoMr Bear, read this:
    http://www.autoevolution.com/news/toyota-corolla-hybrid-made-in-thailand

  • Paul H Behrens

    I have had an Insight for years.

    I Love It,

    Howard Hughes said to us that all cars should be built out of aluminum, Use electric power and use a Hughes Controller so you generate power when slowing down.

    http://profile.myspace.com/index.cfm?fuseaction=user.viewprofile&friendid=59710976

  • Denny Melton

    I would like to find out abaot the new 2011 toyota avaalon2011 car