Toyota To Expand Hybrid Range, But No SUVs On The Horizon Photo:
Tony O'Kane | May, 15 2015 | 5 Comments

Toyota Australia hopes to dramatically expand its range of hybrid vehicles over the next few years, however don’t expect to see the RAV4 hybrid or Kluger hybrid on our shores any time soon.

Speaking to the media at the local launch of the facelifted Toyota Camry, Toyota Australia President Dave Buttner said the company intends to add more hybrid options to its product portfolio.

“We’ve watched the number of hybrid customers grow in Australia and we’ve watched Toyota’s global commitment to hybrid technology continue,” he said.

“We still have a very very strong desire to introduce other hybrid models to the range over the next few years.”

Speaking to TMR, Toyota Product Planning Manager Michael Elias outlined Toyota Australia’s plan to increase the number of hybrid offerings in its showrooms.

“We do have a vision to have hybrid in all passenger and the lower end of the SUV segment”, Toyota Product Planning Manager Michael Elias said.

Toyota Prius C
Toyota Prius C

Toyota’s hybrid lineup is already robust, with the Prius, Prius C, Prius V and Camry Hybrid covering the small, light and mid-size segments. However, there’s still room to grow.

While there are presently no hybrid large sedans or people movers in Toyota’s local product range, the automaker does offer a hybrid version of the Tarago in Japan along with the Toyota Crown Hybrid large sedan.

The latter is unlikely to come to Australia, however a hybrid Tarago is not entirely out of the question. Their relevance to the Australian market is disputable though, given the comparatively low sales in the large and people mover segments.

The absence of hybrid SUVs in Toyota’s local showrooms is a more pressing issue, but while a hybrid variant of the Kluger is sold in the USA (where it’s badged as the Highlander), cost concerns diminish its business case for Australia.

“At the moment, if you look at the Kluger hybrid in America it’s sold at a pretty high premium and it’s not something that we’d really want for here in Australia,” Elias explained.

“The Kluger system is an AWD system with motors at the rear so it’s a much more elaborate, advanced system.

“It’s not your typical 2WD hybrid system. So when you consider those factors it’s a different proposition and it’s not something that we’re currently looking at.”

Similar reasons may also prevent the RAV4 Hybrid (above), unveiled just last month at the New York Auto Show, from coming here.

The RAV4 Hybrid uses a similar electric rear axle layout to the Highlander Hybrid. Elias wouldn’t say whether the cost of this hardware would also make the RAV4 Hybrid prohibitively expensive for Australia, but he did confirm it wasn’t in the immediate product plan for this country.

“When we can source something that is suitable for Australia at the right price and the right specification, we’ll bring it to market,” he said.

Meanwhile, rivals Nissan and Mitsubishi have stolen a march on Toyota in the hybrid SUV niche, with the Pathfinder Hybrid and Outlander PHEV plug-in hybrid both launching in 2014.

Nissan Pathfinder Hybrid
Nissan Pathfinder Hybrid

Until an appropriate hybrid SUV becomes available, the Camry Hybrid will likely continue as Toyota Australia’s volume-selling petrol-electric model.

Last year Toyota sold over 22,000 Camrys, with just under a quarter of those being the hybrid.

With the facelifted Camry Hybrid undergoing a radical price drop to just $30,490 for the base model Altise and a new mid-grade Atara S Hybrid joining the range, the Camry Hybrid’s share of overall sales looks set to increase.

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