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Long-Skeptical Toyota Reversing Course on EVs

Pressure from China and the U.S.; hydrogen infrastructure “isn’t there.”

by on Nov.07, 2016

Toyota worked with Tesla to develop the RAV4 EV it sold from 2012 to 2014.

Long focused on hydrogen fuel-cell technology, Toyota Motor Co. is reversing course and will now make a push into long-range battery-electric vehicles, according to several sources.

The move would add the Japanese giant to the list of manufacturers looking to market vehicles that get more than 200 miles per charge. A senior source within the company told TheDetroitBureau.com that Toyota will continue to work on hydrogen power, but he acknowledged the necessary “infrastructure isn’t there,” leaving the company no alternative if it hoped to meet stringent new emissions and mileage regulations.

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“China has been pressure Toyota,” the source said, noting that the Asian nation has been aggressively promoting electrification as a way to address its endemic smog problems. U.S. regulators and clean advocates are also calling on Toyota to deliver battery cars, he said, adding, “That’s the big change for us.”

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Tesla CEO Hints “Significant” New Deal with Toyota in the Works

But joint venture could be “two to three” years off, cautions Musk.

by on Sep.09, 2014

Toyota is putting the kibosh on the RAV4 EV, but it may not be the end of its working relationship with Tesla, according to Elon Musk.

With Toyota about to pull the plug on its slow-selling RAV4 EV, it looked like the Japanese maker also was switching off its relationship with Silicon Valley start-up Tesla Motors – but it now looks like another deal linking the two manufacturers is in the works.

Exactly what they’re working on hasn’t been revealed, but it could come to light in “two to three years,” according to Tesla Founder and CEO Elon Musk.

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“If you look out maybe two or three years from now, I would not be surprised if there was a significant deal with Toyota and Tesla,” the oft-garrulous Musk told reporters during a visit to Tokyo. (more…)

EV Sales Show Positive Trends Despite Volt Cutback

Fuel price hikes could boost demand.

by on Mar.05, 2012

The Chevrolet Volt and the Nissan Leaf.

Despite GM’s decision to shut down Volt production for five weeks, starting later this month, capping a raft of adverse publicity, sales of electric vehicles are actually running well ahead of last year’s pace.

Sales of both the Volt and the Nissan Leaf both increased in February. Between them, GM and Nissan sold more than 1,500 battery-based vehicles during February, making it one of the best monthly sales totals ever for the emerging technology. Leaf sales increased 617%, year-over-year, while sales of the Volt increased 264%, according to the latest sales number from February.

(Despite its recent problems, the Chevy plug-in also reported a 60% gain from January, when demand plunged as federal regulators probed potential problems with the Volt battery pack.)

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EV sales are still running short of the targets set by Nissan and GM but are expanding and the combination of higher pump prices for gasoline and a stronger economy will lift EV sales, according to a number of industry analysts. In addition, more models are coming to market in the months ahead, and that should boost momentum.

Chrysler Group, for example, has confirmed the Fiat 500 EV will go on sales later this year, as will the Ford Focus Electric, Toyota’s Prius plug-in and RAV4-EV and Honda’s Fit EV. Overall, battery vehicle sales could easily double in 2012, by general consensus.

Of course, the question is whether that will be enough to sustain momentum. Until recently, GM had been planning to produce 60,000 plug-in hybrids in 2012, up from about 10,000 last year – with 45,000 of them aimed at the American market.  The maker has not said how the coming shutdown will impact its plans for the full year. But a spokesperson insisted momentum is building despite what GM sees as a temporary setback – in part because an updated version of the Chevrolet Volt will now qualify for the coveted California HOV lane sticker.

(For more on the latest Chevy Volt news, Click Here.)

Meanwhile, carmakers right across the board are growing more comfortable with the forecasts they’ve made for the overall U.S. market, which show sales growing by double digits across the board. Every major automaker reported sales increases — and while GM lagged with a very modest 1.1% gain, it actually exceeded expectations.

Several companies, such as Nissan — with a sales increase of 15.5% — as well as the Korean twins, Kia and Hyundai  — set sales record last month .

“Nissan’s momentum throughout the lineup continues to drive our growth,” said Al Castignetti, vice president and general manager, Nissan Division. “Another strong month for Nissan Altima demonstrates that consumers are increasingly turning to Nissan for quality and reliability in the midsize car segment.”

Even brands such as Mitsubishi and Suzuki , which saw sales dwindle during the recession, posted double-digit sales increases in February which, overall, exceeded even the more optimistic forecasts for the month.

Meanwhile, brands with significant new product launches, such BMW and Mercedes-Benz, reported sales increases of more than 30% as more new vehicles made it into dealer showrooms.

Toyota also increased sales in February. For Toyota, not only did the Camry score big, but so did the new Yaris minicar.

“Fuel economy remains top of mind for consumers, and they’re responding to Toyota’s lineup, which is the most fuel efficient in the industry,” said Bob Carter, Toyota Division group vice president and general manager, Toyota Motor Sales, U.S.A., Inc. “Camry sales continue to surge, and Prius, Yaris and Scion all posted double digit gains in February. We expect that high gas prices will continue to be a top purchase consideration for consumers, which bodes well for Toyota’s continued growth in 2012.”

It should also bode well for battery-based models, according to Carter, whether relatively conventional hybrids such as the new Prius C – the lowest-priced 4-seat gas-electric model on the market – or more advanced offerings such as the RAV-4 EV Toyota plans to bring to market this year.

Significantly, that vehicle was developed in cooperation with California start-up Tesla Motors, which also hopes to go mainstream in mid-2012 with the launch of its own Model S sedan.  Competitor Fisker Motors, is now ramping up production of its own Karma plug-in hybrid sports car, with a more mainstream vehicle, codenamed Project Nina, on the books for a 2013 launch.

Fisker is struggling to renegotiate a $529 million DoE loan, however, leading many observers to wonder if it will make it until then.  A number of other battery-car start-ups have folded after failing to line up necessary financial support, most notably Bright, which pulled the plug last week – (Click Here for more) – and Aptera, which powered down late last year.

With a few exceptions it is beginning to look like any real boom in battery power will benefit the traditional automakers rather than the start-ups some proponents had been counting on.

Paul A. Eisenstein contributed to this report.

Tesla Downplays Earnings Shortfall

Maker reveals $40 million in advance orders for Model X CUV.

by on Feb.16, 2012

Earnings down but prospects good, says Tesla as it reports $40 mil in advance orders for the Model X.

How do you judge a company that is still months away from launching its first truly significant product?  That’s the question that drove after-hour traders into a frenzy when Tesla Motors reported its financial results for 2011.

On the down side, Tesla revealed a full-year loss that was worse than originally anticipated, reflecting the heavy investment as it prepares to launch both its Model S battery sedan and the Model X crossover that will follow a year later.  More upbeat was news that revenues rose for the year, driven by sales of the limited-volume Tesla Roadster and by the alliances the maker has formed with both Toyota and Daimler AG.

Meanwhile, Tesla also reported that within 24 hours after revealing the Model X, last Thursday evening, it had already netted $40 million in advance sales for the battery-electric vehicle more than a year before it comes to production.

“When you introduce a product that is really groundbreaking and innovative, you don’t necessarily know how customers are going to react to that, and they reacted incredibly well,” said Tesla founder and CEO Elon Musk, during a conference call to discuss the company’s latest news.

In a letter to shareholders, meanwhile, Tesla revealed it has started a development program with Daimler to develop a new electric vehicle program for the German company’s Mercedes-Benz brand. A Tesla-powered version of the Toyota RAV4 is, meanwhile, due to market later this year.

Those alliances helped drive 2011 revenues up by 75%, to $204 million, for all of 2011.  Revenues for the fourth quarter increased 9%, to $39 million.

But the maker lost $264 million for the year, or $2.53 a share, with the loss for the fourth quarter pegged at $81 million, or $0.69 a share.  That was almost 5% higher than the consensus estimate of $0.64, which triggered some frantic ups-and-downs in after-hours trading after Musk’s late Wednesday conference call.

But while some investors are clearly worried about Tesla’s ability to translate its headline-grabbing power into actual sales and earnings, others are more upbeat.  That includes Deutsche Bank analyst Rod Lache, who pointed to the maker’s cash reserves of $493 million – which includes $304 million it can still tap into from a Department of Energy loan.

That, said Lache, “is more-than-sufficient to reach 2013 (so) we continue to believe that Tesla is uniquely positioned to succeed as a new automaker.”

With the Model S due to arrive this year, Tesla is projecting it could nearly triple revenues for the year, to somewhere between $550 million and $600 million, most of that increase coming in the final months of 2012.

So far, the maker says it has taken 8,000 reservations for the Model S, and another 500 for the Model X, each with $5,000 downpayments.

Meanwhile, the maker is reportedly working on a third model line to follow sometime around mid-decade.

Toyota Adding More Hybrids, Battery Cars – And Free Maintenance Plan – To Boost U.S. Sales

Japanese maker’s CEO meanwhile rallies American dealers.

by on Oct.07, 2010

The new Toyota Sienna -- and the rest of the 2011 Toyota and Scion line-up -- will now get free maintenance.

With U.S. sales in a slump despite the use of some of the largest cash incentives in its history, Toyota Motor Co. is taking a two-pronged approach to rebuilding momentum.

From Japan, the company has announced plans to add a number of new hybrids, plug-ins and battery-electric vehicles, or BEVs.  In Las Vegas, meanwhile, Toyota President and CEO Akio Toyoda is rallying the troops, telling 1,200 of its U.S. dealers that the automaker is committed to reversing the damage done by a year-long safety scandal.

Among other steps to boost demand, the maker has also announced it will offer American buyers a new, two-year, 25,000-mile free maintenance plan on all Toyota and Scion-branded products.

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Though it remains the largest automaker in the world, Toyota clearly is worried about the impact of a safety crisis that began almost exactly one year ago when it announced the first recall for so-called sudden acceleration.  Since then, more than 9 million vehicles have been recalled worldwide, the majority in the U.S.  And while the lion’s share are impacted by the sudden acceleration issue, the maker has faced an array of other problems, from excess corrosion on minivans to leaking hybrid fuel tanks.

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Toyota May Supply EV Components To Daimler

Japanese maker hoping to raise cash, lower costs.

by on Sep.16, 2010

Will Toyota provide hybrid and other battery car components to Daimler for use in vehicles like the Smart Electric Drive?

Just days after announcing plans to show off a new battery car while adding a half-dozen new models to its hybrid line-up, Toyota Motor Co. reportedly plans to begin supplying battery-based components to its erstwhile rival, Daimler AG.

It would be the latest in a string of growing partnerships the two manufacturers individually have launched as they both move forward with the electrification of their various product lines.

According to a report in the Thursday evening Nikkei, Japan’s daily business paper, Daimler and Toyota also hope to begin cooperating on the development of hydrogen fuel cells, technology that many advocates hail as the ultimate form of clean powertrain technology.

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While Toyota declined to confirm the Nikkei report, it has issued a statement saying that, “As has been our ongoing stance, if we receive requests from outside companies, we will consider the requests, taking into account factors concerning our production capacity and sales,” Toyota said in a statement.

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Toyota To Show RAV EV at L.A. Show; Launch of Prius Plug-In Pushed Back to Mid-‘12

Maker expanding battery-driven line-up.

by on Sep.14, 2010

Toyota will reveal a battery-powered version of the RAV4 at the upcoming L.A. Auto Show.

Look for Toyota to pull the wraps off a new battery-driven version of the RAV4 at the upcoming Los Angeles Motor Show.  It will be the first product of a new joint venture between the Japanese maker and the California start-up Tesla Motors.

Meanwhile, the company has also announced that it will begin delivering a plug-in version of the Prius hybrid to North American showrooms by May or June of 2012.  That comes about 18 months later than the company had initially indicated.

That delayed debut will come at about the same time Toyota will launch six new global hybrid vehicles, all of which will reach market by the end of 2012, according to Executive Vice President Takeshi Uchiyamada.

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The alliance between Toyota and Tesla has generated plenty of industry discussion and debate since it was first announced last June.  Initially, the Japanese giant said it would be willing to invest $50 million in the California firm’s IPO, which later proved unexpectedly successful.  Toyota also announced it would turn over the abandoned NUMMI plant, in Fremont, California, to Tesla to use to produce the smaller maker’s planned Model S battery sedan.

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Tesla and Toyota to Develop RAV4 Electric Vehicle

A 2012 sale date is promised for the compact sport utility.

by on Jul.16, 2010

Toyota was testing and selling an electric version of the original RAV4 from 1997-2003.

Tesla Motors, Inc. (Tesla) and Toyota Motor Corporation (TMC) today announced that the two companies will start the development of an electric version of the RAV4, which will be available in the U.S. by 2012. 

The electric cute-ute will be made from the existing RAV4 with a Tesla electric powertrain substituted for the gasoline one. 

Tesla claims it will deliver prototypes to Toyota for evaluation within this year. The first prototype has already been built and is now undergoing testing. 

In May, Elon Musk of Tesla and Akio Toyoda of TMC announced their intent to cooperate on the development of electric vehicles, parts, and production system and engineering support. 

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Electrons and IPOs!

Upstart Tesla wants to learn from Toyota’s engineering, manufacturing, and production expertise, while automotive superpower Toyota says it will learn from Tesla’s EV technology, quick decision-making and flexibility. 

Some industry insiders think that the joint program is nothing more than an image cleaning effort by Toyota after it shut its only unionized plant in the U.S. this past spring – New United Motors Manufacturing in Fremont, California. (See UAW Taking Aim at Toyota )

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