By on July 13, 2020

Please don’t send us emails complaining about the use of the word “normal” in a headline. Yes, the Toyota RAV4 Hybrid is still a RAV4. Yes, it has every right to exist, and it makes its parents proud, each and every day.

Especially lately, given that the electrified version of the country’s top-selling compact crossover outsold its conventional sibling in June. Not that the hybrid RAV4 was a sales slug to begin with.

As Tim Cain told you late last year, the RAV4 Hybrid has pretty much replaced the once dominant Prius as the green car du jour in the Toyota lineup. And for whatever reason, June saw the RAV4 Hybrid beat out the gas-only RAV4 by nine units last month, Automotive News reports. There’s a first time for everything.

The 17,051 RAV4 Hybrids sold in June is a far cry from June 2019’s 9,013 units, or even the roughly 10,000 sold in December. But it seems more than likely that circumstance tilted the scales in the hybrid’s favor on a temporary basis.

As we noted last week, inventory data showed Toyota with the thinnest stock of all automakers at the end of June. According to Cox Automotive figures, Toyota’s average 30 days’ supply of vehicles was the least bloated in the industry, vastly undercutting the overall average of 70 days. Take a stable of mostly hot-selling vehicles, add a two-month U.S. production shutdown, then a not-immediate ramp-up, and try to come up with another result. It’s quite possible the dealer cupboard was close to bare in June, tamping down conventional RAV4 sales like an afternoon rain shower on a grass fire.

The same result could crop up in July.

Indeed, AN reports that some dealers marked down RAV4 Hybrids in June to compensate for their lack of of gas-only models. That said, the RAV4 Hybrid’s enviable fuel economy and sensible pricing ladder has earned the variant a consistent sales following, meaning dealers can be assured of steady volume regardless of which model they stock their lots with. Moving up to a hybrid variant in the absence of a purely internal combustion model isn’t a confusing or expensive step for an open-minded customer.

While overall sales are down across the industry, Toyota hybrids saw an uptick of 14 percent over the first half of the year, with more than half of the brand’s electrified vehicles sold being RAV4s. The plug-in hybrid RAV4 Prime arrives this summer to add further choice for green shoppers, though Car and Driver noted recently that battery supply issues could see this year’s American take of the PHEV model fall short of initial expectations.

It could be a while before the RAV4 Prime adds meaningful volume to Toyota’s U.S. sales sheet, though full production of the conventional model and continued production of the regular hybrid should eventually brighten the sale picture.

[Image: Toyota]

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17 Comments on “Fluke? Electrified RAV4 Outsells Normal RAV4...”

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    It may not be a fluke. The hybrid RAV4 offers more power, quicker 0-60 time, and better fuel economy for a modest premium.

    • 0 avatar

      I doubt many do the math to see if the extra costs justify the gas savings, but like you suggest, especially on a lease deal, it makes sense

    • 0 avatar

      Every review I’ve seen seems to suggest that the new Hybrid is just more better than the regular one for drivability in almost every way. If you’re out researching this kind of vehicle, seems like the hybrid version has got to move up on the list.

    • 0 avatar

      Add to that the fact that the hybrid drivetrain is known to be quieter. Consumer’s Report gave the hybrid a higher overall score for that reason. Trivia fact, on the LE (Low End??) model the $800 more for the hybrid over and equivalent gas model includes alloy wheels and upgraded climate control system.
      From personal experience I can report this. My Low End edition is returning mid 50’s mpgs fill ups under ideal driving conditions, and it has suffered the mysterious dead 12 volt battery gremlin that is widely reported on two chat sites I monitor. I bought a jumper battery pack to insure that I don’t get stranded if I am away somewhere overnight.

  • avatar

    Is it just me, or does ti seem odd to call a hybrid “electrified”?

    The term makes me assume an EV version, not a hybrid.

    (I’m not at all surprised it’s a big seller – as SCE says, it’s … pretty much a superior car at a slightly higher price, for most people.)

    • 0 avatar

      I had the same question. A battery powered RAV4 outsells the gas version? I could stretch the definition of EV to include a plug in hybrid but not a hybrid that gets all its energy from a gas pump. Still, the problem is with the headline, not with the vehicle.

      • 0 avatar

        Technically, gasoline ICEs are electrified as well.

        The buyers are definitely going for the better performing vehicle. Technically they are green vehicles, but every BEV owner I’ve ever met up with at a charging station and asked how they like their car, the first thing out of their mouths is the performance. Rarely does the green aspect get mentioned. I’m an EV owner because of the instant torque myself.

    • 0 avatar
      SCE to AUX

      I’ve long argued that the propulsion method within the car is irrelevant, but that whether a car is ‘electrified’ depends on whether it has a plug.

      Hybrids merely use an alternate means on board to store and release energy to the wheels. A flywheel could serve the same purpose.

      If the only connection to the outside world is a gas filler, then it’s not ‘electrified’.

      • 0 avatar

        The propulsion method IS relevant, for performance, and that’s what’s selling this vehicle. The gas filler tube just eliminates the range anxiety of a pure plug-in, while the electric motor gives the driver/owner some green cred along with the performance. It’s the best of both worlds, for a modest premium.

  • avatar

    The combined mileage is 40mpg. It doesn’t appear to be an EPA fluke, either. That’s simply incredible in a crossover body style. We really are getting to the point of diminishing returns on ICEs.

    Note: you can only really make a straight comparison to AWD trim levels, since the RAV-4 Hybrid is AWD only.

    The RAV-4 Hybrid was on our shortlist of replacement cars in February (was; COVID forced us to re-think our major purchases). In our situation before WFH, the efficiency would have paid for itself in 3 years / 60,000 miles.

    Toyota is really getting serious about putting HSD in all their vehicles (except trucks, for now…)

  • avatar

    I’ve never owned a Toyota, or wanted to. No matter what the product, I have a grudge against the No. 1 brand. The others try harder. But if I was buying a new car today, this is the first one I’d consider, and a plug-in hybrid.

  • avatar

    The RAV4 is a nice powertrain layout using electric to drive the rear wheels. Not necessarily Jeep Trail rated capability, but a great setup for the 95% of awd users.

  • avatar

    Makes sense. For anything that isn’t an enthusiast vehicle, the hybrid option just makes more sense. At least half the time, it’s less maintenance and less depreciation, and less money on gas (little difference though that may make at the moment). It’s better for the environment, too. Just picked up a ’20 Sonata hybrid, and I couldn’t be more thrilled with the fuel economy so far, typically over 50mpg for what is more or less a large car. Up next will be some kind of old manual Porsche Boxster…in a couple years, anyway.

  • avatar

    CUV check!, Powerful check!, Practical and big boot check! Doesn’t use that much gasoline check! It’s no rocket science here. Of course ppl buy more hybrid when it’s more powerful and use less fuel. This is NOT you typical slow ass Prius hybrid. Plus the PHEV model are even more powerful than the hybrid.

  • avatar

    If people won’t pay $900 for a hybrid, they will never pay up, in mass, for BEVs, which are now about $10,000 more expensive,

    Toyota’s mature hybrid system provides over 1/2 the purported benefits (primarily gas milage) of a full electric. The fact that they just aren’t popular indicates that the “inevitable” move toward electrification isn’t getting traction.

    “Toyota said Wednesday(in 2019) it will give royalty-free access to its nearly 24,000 patents related to electrification …” Now Toyota is throwing in it’s hybrid option for free and finally getting takers.

    Toyota is behind in the full electric segment, and making a last ditch attempt to popularize hybrids. I can see people gladly adopting for free, but not even $3,000.

    • 0 avatar

      “If people won’t pay $900 for a hybrid, they will never pay up, in mass, for BEVs, which are now about $10,000 more expensive,”

      I’m not so sure BEVs are really more expensive than an ICE car. Traditionally, automakers have charged more money for better acceleration, smoothness, and quiet. 4 cylinder cars were cheaper than V6s, V6s cheaper were than 8s, and 8s cheaper than 12s. The premium power plants as you climbed the price scale gave you faster acceleration, more smoothness, and better torque. So, why should an electric that gives you acceleration in the 5 to 6-second range 0-60 cost as much as a 4 cylinder with a CVT that gives you 0-60 in the 8-second range with all kinds of noise and vibration? Compare a Honda Fit at 70 mph with a Chevy Bolt at 70. There’s a difference. Compare the 3.2 seconds 0-60 of the $55k Model 3 Performance vs. the Hellcat Redeye at $70k with a 3.5 second 0-60. In this case, the EV is actually cheaper. When comparing BEV vs. ICE prices, you have to compare equivalent performance. You can’t compare them directly with a slower, buzzier 4 cylinder with CVT. When you account for the faster acceleration, torque, and refinement, BEVs might not be more expensive than an equivalent ICE.

  • avatar

    I am not totally surprised. I was pretty committed to a gas powered Rav4, but on the test drive I was pretty underwhelmed by the powertrain experience. It was ok… but just not great… the engine seemed loud but not too powerful, transmission was not that smooth, and steering was too light. Strange because it has the same or similar engine/transmission to the Camry which I think drives pretty great in its current form.

    So that might drive many to the Hybrid, not to mention fuel economy. But in my case, the Hybrid had waiting lists, high financing rates, no deals… so I moved on.

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