Priced like a Lexus, and with customer service promised to be as good as Toyota’s up-market line too, its Mirai fuel cell sedan will be priced when launched next year from $57,500 with fuel included for initial buyers.
Lease prices for the car loosely likened to a next Prius will be $499 per month for 36 months and Toyota will launch to fleet and retail customers with sales limited to fewer than 200 vehicle fourth quarter 2015 to 3,000 units by end of 2017.
The car will offer a 0-60 time of 9 seconds, top speed of 111 mph, and front-wheel drive power of 155 horsepower. Fuel will not be charged for as authorities have not set a metering price for it as of yet. This same policy has been in place for the Honda FCX Clarity and now Hyundai Tucson FCV.
Initial Mirai roll-out is in California, but northeast states will follow a “hydrogen highway” corridor in the Boston and New York regions, surrounding states, as well as potentially other places where early adopters are primed, and infrastructure is ready.
These details and more were revealed today by Toyota’s Bill Fay, group vice president, general manager, although no observation was made that Toyota’s foray into “the future” is priced just $100 less than the initially promised entry level Tesla Model S.
Tesla originally planned a 40-kwh Model S from $57,400 and the $57,500 for Toyota’s car promises potentially more subsidies – as much as $13,000. Toyota announced that and printed the potential $45,000 net dollar amount, but did not note that the expiration date for federal FCV subsidies expires end of this year.
In response to a journalist who brought this up, Toyota said it is expecting or hoping that the present federal subsides will be extended alongside existing state subsidies to take the full $13,000 bite out of the fuel cell vehicle to be launch second half of 2015.
Its likening to Tesla is otherwise minimal – as the styling of Tesla’s large car is sleek and it’s quicker – and Toyota is expecting an ongoing discussion, having heard vigorous criticism from battery electric car advocates.
The automaker however says it is taking a long view with renewable-sourced hydrogen comprising a third of that consumed gas also sourced from natural gas.
And, for all the debate already, it aims to open a dialogue over the coming year and possibly beyond as needed, while funding some much-needed infrastructure too.
The bottom line is it will not only be a question of the infinitesimal details of the FCV vs. BEV science debate, says Toyota.
“In many ways, our first customers’ experience is more important than the vehicle itself,” said Fay. “We know the vehicle will not disappoint – we’ve taken 20 years to make sure that’s not the case!”
‘Luxury Ownership Experience’
Fay then outlined the overview of Toyota’s marketing plan for the car which will be launched within months first in Japan, and then in Europe and the U.S.
The automaker will essentially apply lessons learned since the launch of the Prius – first in 1997 in Japan, and 2000 in the U.S. – with lessons also learned from its super-customer-service oriented Lexus division.
Reports went out by media today with the jazzy idea that this will be the “next Prius” but while that hybrid is a model of starting modestly and watching sales blossom, the Mirai could more aptly be called a halo product with the corporate badge given Lexus treatment.
Toyota did give thought to naming the product a Lexus according to green car marketing head, Doug Coleman, but the decision to make the car a brand T was decided as the path to go, as was the choice to make it a sedan.
Targeted First Customers
To learn who its first buyers will be, in 2013 Toyota began studying its customers in California and the Northeast, and found a core psychographic of enviro-savvy, tech-appreciating “trailblazers” who want to feel like they are part of a mission.
It also sought through its fleet division corporations with a green mission for whom the Mirai would make an ideal statement for their commitment.
The 360 ownership experience includes “complete peace of mind” said Fay:
• 24/7 dedicated rep, not unlike, we’ll observe, how Volt buyers get a Volt advisor to call with questions
• 24 hour “enhanced roadside assistance” including towing, battey – there is a 12-volt lead acid battery in the trunk – flat tire assistance, trip interruption reimbursement, and loaner vehicle – “all arranged by the helpful concierge”
• 3 years of Toyota Care maintenance covering all recommended factory maintenance – which may not be much, but includes air filter replacement and deionizer filter replacement
• 8 year/100,000 mile warranty on fuel cell components
• complementary Entune and 3 years of safety connect with hydrogen station map
Not unlike how Tesla has engendered a populist cause for its car, Toyota sees its initially smaller contingency of those first to step up being such people – these people want to feel like they are part of a greater cause.
The automaker has already given private test drives to prospective fleet buyers ahead of the media launch this week, as it’s prepping the way with market studies that appear to be a quantum leap ahead in advance knowledge compared to the Prius of 15-plus years ago.
Toyota expects 90 percent of first customers to lease the Mirai, and in years two and three, more will want to buy it outright, Fay said.
Assuming all $13,000 in state and federal incentives can be lopped off however, Californians may net the car for $45,000 and be eligible for HOV solo-access stickers.
By comparison, when Honda came to market with its Accord Hybrid last year, it priced it from $30,000-$36,000 so the stretch will not be seen as outlandish by the personality types expected to take a shining to Toyota’s first hydrogen powered halo.
Toyota says it is taking the long view, and the parallel to acceptance path of the Prius, included the note that it took a full decade to sell the first million globally, then six more million more just seven years later as the sales growth graph shot upwards.
The automaker says it knows infrastructure is a hurdle, as are other critical observations, but it is aiming to take a loss for a while to bring to pass its predictions that this is “the future” for the next 100 years; a first for a ”hydrogen society.”
It is doing it all with full support by the California Air Resources Board, and other government and corporate partners around the country and world are also in on the vision.
Possibly the most expensive part of the FCV are the two bullet-proof 10,000-psi hydrogen tanks, made in-house by Toyota for an un-reported amount. Many costs were also saved by carrying over system architecture from the Camry Hybrid.
Honda also made an announcement this week on its follow-up to its FCX Clarity delayed a year, but coming for sure.
Toyota says the Mirai is a car that will meet needs, slowly at first, but in time, it and others aim to initiate a sea change in transportation.