Toyota goes all-in on hybrids as sales climb

Hybrid cars are in the fast lane, more than doubling in popularity this year as the uptake of electric vehicles slows.

The success of hybrid cars has prompted Toyota to go all-in on the technology, abandoning conventional gasoline powertrains in several model lines, including the Toyota RAV4, Kluger, Corolla and Corolla Cross.

While hybrid sales are soaring, Tesla sales have fallen in the past two months. Despite big discounts, sales fell by 20 percent in May, and by more than 40 percent in April. The manufacturer’s sales are now lower than in the first five months of last year.

The electric car market has been locked in a fierce price war in recent months, with several brands slashing prices by more than $10,000 to clear excess inventory.

It’s not all doom and gloom for electric vehicle sales, however, as Tesla’s rival BYD had a record month.

Australians bought more than 40,000 electric cars in the first five months of this year, which is almost 27 percent more than the same period last year.

But growth slowed and they were overtaken by hybrids. Last year at this time, Australians were buying more electric vehicles than hybrids, largely due to a lack of Toyota offerings, pushing some models’ delivery times beyond 12 months.

But hybrids have bounced back, recording nearly 66,500 units sold this year.

Sean Hanley, Toyota’s vice president of sales and marketing, said the recent results reflect real demand for hybrid cars.

“This is a landmark move for Toyota in Australia,” he said.

“It wasn’t that long ago that some commentators were writing off hybrids if you go back to last year.

“The market truth was that the growing demand for Toyota hybrids far outstripped our ability to supply … despite all the reports of long wait times, people continued to order them, and let me tell you, they ordered them in droves.

“We knew there was huge demand for hybrids. It was extremely powerful.”

Almost a quarter of new car sales last month were hybrids or electric vehicles.

The Toyota RAV4 was third in the sales charts last month, behind the leader Ford Ranger and runner-up Toyota HiLux.

Despite the rise of hybrids, Australians continue to thirst for utes and 4WDs in large numbers. Along with the Ranger and HiLux, the Isuzu D-Max and Toyota LandCruiser finished in the top five on the sales charts.

Overall, the market remains on track for another record year, despite cost-of-living pressures.

Toyota’s decision to adopt a hybrid-only lineup without entry-level gasoline models will raise prices for the Corolla Cross ($2,500), Corolla Sedan ($3,050), RAV4 ($2,500) and Kluger ($6,500). Other models, such as the Camry sedan and the Yaris and Corolla hatchbacks, have already switched to the hybrid line itself.

Toyota models that do not have a hybrid option, such as the HiLux, LandCruiser and Supra, remain unchanged.

Hybrid sales should be boosted by fresh metal at the most affordable end of the car market.

MG and Suzuki will introduce sub-$30,000 hybrid hatchbacks to Australian showrooms in the coming weeks.

Suzuki Australia managing director Michael Pachota said hybrid cars were the “right idea” for Australia.

“I think the hybrid will grow to at least 60 percent of sales in the next eight years,” he said.

“I don’t even see EV going over 30 percent.

“First of all, the infrastructure is not ready in Australia [electric vehicles].

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“In the future, I see the electric drive as an alternative to hybrids and/or other types of fuel, but it will not represent a large share of sales.”

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