Toyota, king of the hybrids, won’t sell their first plug-in hybrid before 2012. But they already have their kind of a perception gap. The car will be able to go 23km (14.29 miles) on battery alone, then, the ICE engine will kick in and start making electricity. However, research shows that only a few people know about the electric-only feature. Or do they care at all?
According to The Nikkei [sub] “Toyota Motor Corp. is looking for ways to juice up the appeal of its plug-in hybrid slated to hit the showroom floor in 2012. Japan’s top automaker is seeking to counter the impression that it lags behind rivals like Nissan Motor Co. and Mitsubishi Motors Corp. in environmentally friendly technology and electric vehicles.”
With the latter two, the matter is clear: Both Mitsubishi’s i-MiEV, and Nissan’s Leaf (to be debuted in December) have no perception gap: You plug them in, and they run on pure electric until the battery is empty.
Toyota has dropped the occasional remark that the car can travel a short distance on battery power only. But Toyota exploited range anxiety and stressed the worry-free aspect of a car that won’t leave you stranded. Toyota always took the position that their hybrid is more practical than all-electric cars.
But now a fresh green wave is hitting Japan. Nissan and Mitsubishi are making a lot of hay out of the fact that the i-MiEV and the Leaf do not emit carbon dioxide – at least not out of the non-existent tailpipe. According the the Nikkei, Toyota has changed its message, stressing the electric vehicle technology.
Maybe people don’t take a paltry 14 mile seriously? Not so, says Toyota. According to their survey, about 60 percent of respondents drive their cars 20km or less per trip. Now Toyota tells them to go to the store on battery, and go visit grandma over the weekend with a tank full of gas.
Toyota has another problem: They plan to introduce an all-electric vehicle based on its iQ subcompact in 2012. That will cause further confusion.
Says the Nikkei: “Toyota has won accolades for its environmental technologies, from engines to fuel cells. But new technologies threaten to overturn old ways of doing things, practically overnight, as competitors spring up from unexpected directions. For Toyota to regain its once uncontested leadership in the eco-car market, it will need to hone both its technology and its marketing message.”