Speaking at the global reveal of the updated 2024 bZ4X, a Toyota executive claimed electric vehicles don’t make sense in countries like Australia. Meanwhile, as the bestselling EV in the region, Tesla’s Model Y is proving that idea wrong.
“Right now, hybrid-electric vehicles are a better fit than BEVs for most consumers,” the Toyota Australia VP of sales, marketing, and franchise operations, Sean Hanley, told journalists Wednesday (via Car Sales).
Like many Toyota executives, Hanley continues pushing hybrid technology, where the company excels. “BEVs make sense right now in places like Norway where most energy is renewable, and incomes are high,” He added, “But Australia is not Europe.”
The comments come as Australia’s EV market is beginning to heat up. Toyota has long led Australia’s hybrid market, with nearly 90% of hybrid sales in the region last year.
Although Australia was late to the EV party, with electric models accounting for only 3.8% of overall car sales last year, the country is turning it around this year.
EV sales are up 80% in 2023, with over 65,000 Aussie drivers taking an electric car home. Thanks to new affordable EVs from China like BYD’s Atto 3, electric cars now account for 7.3% of new vehicle sales in Australia.
Toyota’s skepticism over EVs disproved by Tesla
Despite Hanley’s comments, electric vehicles continue gaining momentum in the country. In fact, Tesla’s Model Y is the bestselling SUV (gas or electric) through September.
The Model Y has already surpassed Toyota’s RAV4, Ford Ranger, and Mazda CX-5 to become the nation’s top-selling SUV.
Australia’s government introduced a new National Electric Vehicle Strategy in April to boost EV adoption. The strategy has three main goals, including:
- Increase the supply of affordable EVs.
- Establish the resources, systems, and infrastructure to enable rapid EV uptake.
- Encourage increased EV demand.
The strategy seems to be working with several affordable models available on the market and rising demand for zero-emission options.
Despite his enthusiasm for hybrids, Hanley clarified he is “not saying hybrids should be used instead of BEVs everywhere and forever.” He pointed out that Toyota is “accelerating its advances in electric vehicle technology,” including a new development center.
By 2026, Toyota plans to launch a new dedicated EV platform with 10 new electric models. The company will begin selling its first EV, the bZ4X, in Australia in February. Toyota Australia has committed to at least three EVs by 2026.
This is not the first time Hanley has taken a stance against EVs. After presenting the new EV strategy, Toyota’s sales boss in the country said the company would “lobby for a standard with a generous time frame that will cut pollution without cutting vehicle options.”
It sounds like Toyota wants its hybrids to stick around a while longer. Hanley highlighted that in most Australian states (and other countries like China), power generation is still dependent on fossil fuels.
However, Australia is quickly moving toward a cleaner future. The country plans to increase the share of renewable energy to 82% by 2030, up from around 32% last year.
Australia’s installed solar power generation capacity has increased by over 200% since 2018, ranking sixth globally last year as one of the fastest-growing renewable energy producers. So, if Australia is moving forward, why is Toyota still trying to hold them back?
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