Uchiyamada: Hybrids Soon Reaching 20 Percent Of Global Sales

Cameron Aubernon
by Cameron Aubernon
uchiyamada hybrids soon reaching 20 percent of global sales

The father of the Prius and Toyota chairman Takeshi Uchiyamada foresees hybrid sales climbing from 13 percent of global sales today to 20 percent in the near future.

Automotive News Europe reports that while hybrids make up a good part of sales in the United States and Japan, they are currently a niche market in Europe in the face of equal- or better-performing diesels with lower price tags. However, Uchiyamada believes so strongly in his forecast that he didn’t factor plug-in hybrids in to his forecast, nor give a separate outlook for plug-ins.

Speaking of plug-in hybrids, Uchiyamada believes the key to success lies in higher volumes, especially among suppliers:

Suppliers need higher volumes to slash costs of components specific to plug-in models, including batteries that should be bigger and more capable than the ones used in traditional hybrids.

Regarding the Prius, Uchiyamada said the project — known as Project G21 — was a challenge, beginning with the proposal that the future Prius would net “one and a half times better fuel economy than anything that had existed before,” only to be told by top management to double the proposed number. Then, after a successful debut at the 1995 Tokyo Auto Show, he and his team spent 49 days trying to get the proto-Prius to move, finally doing so near the end of that year, “but only for 500 meters.”

Today, with 25 hybrids between Toyota and its premium brand Lexus, as well as a global total of over 6 million hybrids sold, Uchiyamada may have aged out of the title bestowed unto him regarding the Prius:

Maybe I am the grandfather by now.

Join the conversation
25 of 26 comments
  • Wumpus Wumpus on Mar 11, 2014

    I'd not only believe it, but I'd also tell him to "double his number" (to 27%, twice the improvement. I'm assuming that nobody at Toyota seriously believed you could triple a camry's gas mileage). 20% global sounds pretty easy, assuming current progress in batteries (a fairly big "if"). On the other hand, I'd assume that plenty of the current sales are those silly "hybrid for the sticker" or "hybridize it". A system like the prius (or accord hybrid) makes sense: just stuffing an electric engine in a gas car means a tiny bump in power (that could be achieved cheaper just about any other way on anything but the highest output engines) and no efficiency gains (likely some other means of efficiency is used to make it look semi "green"). There was a question about a hypothetical "1000ftlb" truck. That's what, two spark motors and a V6? Note that using a prius/volt style power adding transmission will go down to "infinite" gear, and keep pulling on a stump until the software cries uncle or the teeth are pulled from the gears. Can't say if truck buyers will fall for the "1000ftlb" claim (true, but raw torque numbers are meaningless, and even more meaningless when coming from a non-IC engine). He also seems to ignore the idea of a hybrid diesels. Presumably Honda could simply drop in their 2.2l diesel (already used in an accord) into a hybrid accord. It might only sell where gas prices are even more through the roof than Europe, but it shouldn't be too hard to design [yeah, I'm assuming that any country that does that to the price of gas wouldn't be asinine about regulations, silly me.]. Since the diesels tend to dominate mileage above 40mph, this should be the best of all [mileage] worlds [don't look at the sticker price].

    • See 2 previous
    • Charly Charly on Mar 11, 2014

      @Pete Zaitcev Diesels are much more efficient that gas when the engine is lightly used (like idling for a stoplight, city traffic) so the difference in efficiency between hybrids and diesels isn't that large. Cost is also a big reason as diesel hybrids get close to plug-in with gasoline range extender.

  • Redliner Redliner on Mar 11, 2014

    With more cars utilizing start-stop and micro-hybrid systems to meet emissions and economy targets, I would be surprised if any less than 50% of cars sold will be "hybrids" of some sort in the next 20 years. However "full hybrids" will probably remain a niche.

    • See 2 previous
    • Wumpus Wumpus on Mar 11, 2014

      While I think this might be true, I also think that "basic hybrid" will be like a prius or accord hybrid, and the "full hybrid" will be more like a Volt or extended Tesla (or at least have Tesla power). While the battery/motor/charger bits are complicated and expensive, look at the accord hybrid vs. accord: no transmission (well, one clutch). An automatic transmission is probably the most complicated consumer item in existence (dual clutch and CVT being worse), and the accord doesn't have one and the prius has no clutch or unmeshing gears. Hybrid drivetrains are getting cheaper and cheaper. Automatic (and related) transmissions got cheaper in the 1960s-1970s. These systems could easily take over the mainstream market, unless some unforeseen thing makes CVTs cheaper and simpler.

  • RogerB34 RogerB34 on Mar 11, 2014

    Listing of the 10 "cheapest" hybrid cars in the EU. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/motoring/picturegalleries/9475580/The-10-cheapest-hybrid-cars.html?frame=2310219 About $44k for a Prius. Note that two have diesel engines. The EU countries subsidize diesel fuel below the price of gasoline making the more expensive to buy diesel a strong seller.

    • See 4 previous
    • FormerFF FormerFF on Mar 13, 2014

      @jimbob457 In the US, the tax difference between gasoline and Diesel is incremental, average is around 9 cents per gallon, less than three percent. There are a number of European countries that tax Diesel significantly less than gasoline, though the spread is narrowing.

  • Conslaw Conslaw on Mar 11, 2014

    I think today's hybrid technology already makes sense for the average driver, but the payback period is longer than many want to wait. The Toyota Prius has a cost per mile below the most bare-bones economy cars, but it is much nicer over all. Let's say you compare a reasonably nice 30 mpg non-hybrid that costs $20,000 with a Toyota Prius that costs $26,000 and gives you 50 MPG. Over the first 100,000 miles, the non-hybrid uses 3,333 gallons of gas. At $3.60/gallon that's $12,000. The prius uses 2,000 gallons over the same distance, that's $7,200. That's a $4,800 difference. We're not at $6,000 yet, but at 100,000 miles, the Prius actually isn't even at middle age. The Prius likely holds a resale edge over the nonhybrid of at least $1,200, but even if it isn't sold, over the next 100,000 miles, the Prius would save another $4,800 over the non-hybrid.

    • See 9 previous
    • Jacob Jacob on Jul 11, 2014

      I have done a lot of similar calculations, and depending on the car you're comparing it to, miles driven, etc, the Prius will "break even" relative to a say a 5-door Mazda3 or a Honda Accord LX in about 60,000-100,000 miles. But personally, I would just take the 3 or Accord LX because both are going to be a lot more fun to drive. Besides the inferior (but still fairly adequate for commuter car) driving dynamics, the Prius at times feels quite cheap. First, the car body feels tin-canish. I get reminded of this every time when I close the door. The resonance is ridiculous. The wind noise is quite high. Next, the base "Prius Two" model with a 24 grand MSRP does not even have an electric driver seat. Come on, this is a joke. To get a power seat, you have to get the "Prius Four", with 28K MSRP. Suffice to say that, even though it's a nice car, I don't think I'd spend my own money on a Prius.