By on February 4, 2020

We told you late last year how the Toyota RAV4 Hybrid is the hybrid the Toyota Prius wishes it could be. The two models have essentially swapped positions, with eco-minded American consumers now eschewing the pius hatch in favor of the brawnier image and accommodating cabin of the gas-electric compact CUV.

It brings to mind this morning’s QOTD, frankly.

End-of-year sales starkly illustrated the diverging paths of these two models. This week, the automaker is basking in more good sales news, both for hybrids and conventional vehicles. On the electrified front, at the very least, there’s good reason for Toyota to be very optimistic about 2020.

With the introduction of the new-for-2019 RAV4 and its hybrid offspring, Toyota saw hybrid sales rocket upward in the United States. Total sales of Toyota-badged hybrids rose 26.3 percent last year, with electrified Lexus models jumping 43.1 percent.

A big boost came in the form of the RAV4 Hybrid, now featuring an independent electric propulsion system motivating the rear axle. Sales of that model nearly doubled, rising more than 92 percent by year’s end. At the end of 2018, RAV4 Hybrid sales had fallen 5 percent, partly owing to the new model introduction.

In comparison, the Prius, now a singular bodystyle offered in regular and PHEV flavors, saw its popularity drop 20.4 percent last year. In 2018? Excluding the departing Prius C and V, combined sales were down 13.7 percent.

The hybrid model that ignited the hybrid fire at Toyota just happens to be the one shedding the most volume.

With January out of the way, we can see that the first month of the new year was a good one for Toyota. According to the Automotive News Data Center, sales of all vehicles rose 6.3 percent across both brands, but hybrid sales were something else. At Toyota, sales of electrified models rose a whopping 126 percent, year over year.

The RAV4 Hybrid plays a role in this impressive figure, as in January of last year the new model was just coming online (with sales down over 63 percent, YoY). Take that into consideration when you hear of the sixfold increase in sales of that model last month.

Two products scheduled to land within the next six months will surely add wind to the brand’s hybrid sails (sales?). The first, a more fuel-efficient hybrid variant of the new-for-2020 Highlander midsize crossover, lands this spring. Highlander Hybrid sales rose 25.7 percent last year.

The second shoe to drop is a plug-in hybrid version of the RAV4, making a trifecta. It helps that the RAV4 Prime appearing this summer is also the quickest RAV4 in the model’s history, according to the manufacturer.

While it would be hard to top the regular RAV4 Hybrid in terms of volume, it’s interesting to note that, in the last year before Toyota combined the Prius and Prius Prime in its sales reporting (2018), the plug-in model was on the ascent.


[Images: Toyota]

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13 Comments on “Toyota, aka Hybrid King, Storms Into New Year...”

  • avatar

    Crossover steals sales from conventional car, film at 11.

    You can see the transition on the streets of Seattle. RAV4 Hybrids are absolutely everywhere, and I’d say the majority of newer RAV4s I see are hybrids. About half of the Highlanders I see are hybrids, despite the expense of pre-2020 versions. The Lexus RX450h has long been the official vehicle of a certain category of Seattle women in their 50s and 60s. Priuses are still ubiquitous, but increasingly they are Uber and Lyft vehicles, with fewer personal-use examples.

    You also see a lot of full EVs here, especially Tesla Model 3s and Chevy Bolts.

  • avatar

    Well, the RAV4 is less hideous than that thing called a Prius. Even those knuckle draggers who tailgate in the slow lane that buy Toyoduhs must have their limit on how ugly they are willing to buy.

  • avatar

    It isn’t that crossover are stealing sales from conventional cars, but that crossovers are preferred to BADLY DESIGNED American conventional cars.

    High seating position isn’t the advantage, better visibility is, and the way that the current batch are styled, only forward visibility is good; you need cameras to see out the rear and warning sensors to “see” cross traffic.

    In the early 1970s I owned a Renault R16. While its quality of construction was as mediocre as any American car and the support of the dealer network was absoutely lousy, the basic design (configuration and utility) of that 4 door sedan made every sedan that I’ve see in the past 50 years since look poor.

    It had a more comfortable, spacious and flexible interior (5 grown adults) than any compact SUV now made and more capacity than some of the midsize ones, as a front wheel drive hatchback. The rear seat could be removed, shifted to provide more cargo or leg room, or flipped up to carry cargo beneath its back. The closest I’ve ever gotten to it since is the Honda Element I bought +30 years later. No American design car or SUV being made today approaches what the French were making 50 years ago (and selling for under $4000.)

    • 0 avatar

      PSD I agree with you but feel that perhaps function pushes current design. My BMW 2002, W109 MBZ and 245 Volvo all had great visibility but certainly couldn’t meet today’s safety and economy standards.

      Roof and side strength, multiple airbag placement and aerodynamic considerations may be limiting current design options as much as style considerations.

  • avatar

    “The two models have essentially swapped positions, with eco-minded American consumers now eschewing the *pius* hatch in favor of the brawnier image and accommodating cabin of the gas-electric compact CUV.”

    So is the word supposed to be “Prius” or “pious”?

  • avatar

    The new Rav4 is a pretty compelling vehicle, as much as the TTAC peanut gallery laments boring crossovers. The space / economy / performance proposition choosing it over say a Prius or Camry isn’t too hard to understand.

    Those who want some off-road cred can get the TRD or Adventure models with a pretty solid AWD system. The Hybrid models get pretty stellar MPG and are a good value proposition in the mid-tier trims. I’d personally take the RAV4 Hybrid over the Prius for the additional cargo room and wouldn’t mind the ~10mpg hit as I’m already getting a solid ~40mpg.

    Combined with the fact it’s likely gonna be on the road when all of the Equinoxes / Escapes / Rogues are meeting the crusher and I think it’s a winning formula.

  • avatar

    Close to looking for a new vehicle. It they don’t make a hybrid Corolla model with all the bells and whistles then the RAV4 may be it.

  • avatar
    Peter Gazis

    NISSAN MOVES TO QUARTERLY REPORTING Without any notification.
    Both Companies are hiding something..

  • avatar

    I was pretty excited about the RAV4 Prime – if they don’t fix the fuel tank issue -I’m out though . Also I wonder is the 0-60 in 5.8 and the 300 HP only w the battery fully charged ? What if it’s empty?

    • 0 avatar

      The battery in a PHEV isn’t ever truly “empty.” When the full electric range is used up, the car reverts to working like a non-plug-in hybrid. That is, it uses the engine and regen braking to charge the battery within a narrow range that almost always leaves enough battery power in reserve for a full-throttle acceleration run

      • 0 avatar

        I wasn’t clear enough- I was not referring to the hybrid battery – if the Prime Electric Battery is depleted – can you still do the 0-60 in 5.8 seconds ? Is that figure done only on the Prime , the engine and hybrid or only on all three power trains ? It’s confusing

        • 0 avatar

          It’s all the same battery, Like any other hybrid, there are only two batteries in a Prius Prime: the big high-voltage battery that’s part of the powertrain, and a little 12V battery just like you’d find in any other car. The difference between a PHEV and a hybrid with no plug is just that the high-voltage battery in the PHEV is way, way bigger.

          I think maybe if I walk you through how the car uses the high-voltage battery it may be a bit clearer.

          If you plug the car into the wall and leave it for enough time, the HV battery will charge to 100%. When you start the car again, it will run only on electricity unless you demand more power than the electric motors can provide by themselves. The car will work like this until the HV battery gets to a certain point, usually around 10%. Then the car will start working like a non-plug-in hybrid.

          It will work in a narrow charge range between (say) 3% and 10%, using regen braking to charge whenever possible, and then also using engine power to charge as needed.

          The battery will never deplete to the point where the car can’t use battery energy to hit its full horsepower rating when asked, except in the edge cases of either (1) multiple full-throttle acceleration runs in quick succession or (2) a full-throttle ascent of a miles-long hill. In any other scenario, the engine will have opportunities to charge the battery even as it is also powering the car. If you drive any Toyota or Ford hybrid you may notice scenarios where the engine is spinning faster than you expect after you climb a hill or accelerate onto a freeway. That is battery charging which is intended to ensure that you have power when you want it.

          In the extreme edge case, if you really do deplete the battery through crazy or extreme driving, you will find yourself with less power. But after nearly five years of Ford and Toyota hybrid ownership that’s only happened to me once, after climbing a 3000′ mountain pass nearly flat-out in my C-Max. And I still had enough power to climb the rest of the hill at 65, just not the 80+ I was doing most of the way up. As soon as I crested the hill, the car promptly charged the battery and all was back to normal.

          (For the record, last summer I climbed a similar pass at a similarly extreme speed in the Highlander Hybrid. It has more power, and had enough in reserve to keep a bit going into the battery even at 85 mph. The V6 was spinning at 5000 rpm, but there was always a bit extra there when I wanted it.)

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