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Toyota Latest to Cut Battery Car Prices to Boost Demand

Prius Plug-in price to drop by as much as $4,620 as sales plunge.

by on Oct.09, 2013

Toyota hopes to charge up sales of the Prius Plug-in by cutting its price.

Toyota has become the latest maker to try to use price cuts to spur demand for its struggling battery-based products, trimming as much as $4,620 off the MSRP of the plug-in version of its otherwise popular Prius Hybrid.

Virtually every automaker marketing advanced battery vehicles, including Ford, General Motors, Honda and Nissan, has been forced to trim prices this year as sales of plug-ins, extended-range electric vehicles and pure battery-electric vehicles, or BEVs, have lagged well below expectations.

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For 2014, the base version of the Toyota Prius Plug-in will start at just $29,990 – plus delivery fees – a discount of $2,000. Unlike the new base model of the Nissan Leaf battery-electric sedan, Toyota says the price cut “is not accompanied by any reduction in vehicle content.” In fact, it has added such content as automatic climate control.


Chevy Volt Sales Short-Circuit

Volt falls behind both Nissan Leaf and Toyota Prius Plug-in.

by on Dec.04, 2012

Sales of the Chevrolet Volt, left, fell behind the Nissan Leaf for the first time this year.

After charging up for the first 10 months of the year, sales of the Chevrolet Volt plug-in hybrid unexpectedly short-circuited last month.

Volumes fell to barely half of September and October levels – ensuring that Chevy will end 2012 selling barely half as many Volts as it had originally hoped for this year. The plug-in’s sales for November fell behind those of two key rivals, the Nissan Leaf battery-electric vehicle and Toyota’s Prius Plug-in. But all three models appeared to lose some momentum despite the overall surge of the U.S. car market.

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Even so, Chevrolet officials downplayed last month’s weak performance and ascribed it to inventory issues. The maker has twice halted production at the Volt plant in Detroit since spring, most recently between mid-September and mid-October to re-tool the facility to also handle production of the next-generation Chevrolet Impala.


GM Losing Nearly $50,000 on Every Volt, According to New Report

“That’s not very good math,” counters Volt program insider.

by on Sep.10, 2012

Sales of the Chevrolet Volt are up substantially this year -- which may not be good news for GM considering it loses money on every one.

General Motors is losing nearly $50,000 for every Chevrolet Volt it builds, according to a new report – more than the actual sticker price for the new vehicle.

The maker acknowledges it is definitely losing money but insists “the math is wrong” in the report by the Reuters news service – and that the loss is significantly less when spread out over the life of the Volt program and when other products that will share the Volt’s underlying technology are taken into the equation.

But there is little doubt that battery car technology is, at least for now, a big money loser for all manufacturers – a factor that recently led Fiat/Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne to declare plug-in hybrids, battery-electric vehicles and related products “economic lemons.”

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Sales of the Chevrolet Volt have been slowly but steadily building since the plug-in hybrid was launched in December 2010. Volume hit a record 2,831 in August, a nearly 1,000-unit increase from July and up more than nine-fold from the 302 sold in August 2011.  The bad news is that every one of those Volts is digging GM a little deeper into the red.


Ford C-Max Energi Takes Aim at Prius Plug-In

Ford C-Max rated 95 MPGe, 20 miles on batteries

by on Jul.23, 2012

Ford hopes to topple Toyota's Prius Plug-In with the longer-range C-Max Energi.

Can Ford’s new “people-mover” topple the battery-powered king-of-the-hill?

The Toyota Prius routinely captures half of the hybrid market, and the Japanese maker has been gaining ground – despite the recent slide in U.S. fuel prices – by expanding the range of models wearing the Prius badge.  But Ford hopes to finally make some inroads against Toyota with the launch of its new C-Max, the U.S. maker’s first dedicated hybrid-only model line.

The C-Max Energi, in particular, may have a good shot at taking down the new Prius Plug-in by offering a mix of better mileage, longer battery-only range and a lower price tag than the Toyota model.

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According to the newly released, Ford expects to get a 95 MPGe Combined City/Highway rating from the EPA, and will average about 20 miles per charge.  While that’s significantly less than the battery-only range of the Chevrolet Volt it’s nearly twice the range of the very limited Prius Plug-In.


Consumers Fail to Plug into Electrics

A critical year for battery carmakers.

by on Jul.09, 2012

Slow to charge up buyers: the Ford Focus Electric.

There’s a growing supply but where’s the demand?  That’s the question industry officials are increasingly worried about as more and more battery cars enter a market that shows little sign of embracing them.

While sales of some models are up over year-ago levels, notably those of the Chevrolet Volt plug-in hybrid, demand for others, such as the Nissan Leaf, have slipped year-over-year.  And still others, new to the market such as the Ford Focus Electric, are moving at such a slow pace they’re little more than rounding errors on the sales charts.

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Few now believe demand for plug-ins, in particular, will come near to meeting a target set by an Obama Administration that has strongly advocated alternative power – and backed it with billions of dollars in federal loans and grants to automakers and battery car manufacturers.

The President had forecast 1 million plug-ins would be on the road by 2015.  But “There is little evidence” that can happen, according to a new report by Pike Research, a Boulder, Colorado firm focusing on clean technologies such as battery power.


New RAV4-EV Shows Toyota No Longer Willing to Go it Alone

Japanese giant increasingly dependent upon alliances.

by on May.07, 2012

Toyota will build the RAV4 EV on the same Ontario assembly line producing the conventional version of the crossover.

Toyota today launched its all-new battery-electric vehicle, the RAV4-EV, at the annual International Electric Vehicle Symposium, in Los Angeles.  Based on the maker’s conventionally powered compact ute, the vehicle is intended to test the U.S. market’s interest in electric propulsion.

But it will also be a test of the budding relationship between the Japanese giant and the small California start-up Tesla Motors.  The guts of the RAV4-EV, its lithium-ion driveline, will come from Tesla, a company in which Toyota has so far invested more than $50 million and dangled millions more in contracts like the new electric vehicle.

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More broadly, it’s a test of a significant shift in strategy by the Japanese maker.  For most of its existence, the company – currently the world’s fourth-largest automaker – steadfastly did things on its own.  While other manufacturers frequently partnered with erstwhile rivals to fill gaps in their product and powertrain line-ups, Toyota reached into its vast treasury to fund its own programs or worked with a very small and select group of suppliers – known as a keiretsu — in which it usually held a significant financial stake.

No longer.  Toyota is rapidly lining up an assortment of alliances with not only some of the world’s most prestigious auto manufacturers but also some of its fiercest competitors.

“No one can handle it all by themselves,” acknowledged Yoshi Inaba, president and COO of Toyota Motor North America.


Are Battery Car Sales Coming Unplugged?

Sales slide would be worse without new models.

by on May.03, 2012

Were it not for the new Prius Plug-in the battery car market might have come completely unplugged.

Is the battery car market losing its juice?  While it’s too soon to tell if the latest surge in gas prices has hit its peak buyers already seem to be rethinking the cost-benefit equation when it comes to plug-in hybrids, extended-range electric vehicles and battery-electric vehicles.

Indeed, were it not for the arrival of some new models, notably the Toyota Prius plug-in, the battery-car market might look like it was in risk of coming completely unplugged.

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Total sales came to somewhere just north of 3,600, industry analysts estimate.  The precise figure is hard to determine as Ford is not yet releasing numbers for its new Focus Electric, nor are smaller makers like Fisker Automotive and Coda providing data.

For the four makers that are providing sales numbers, the total for April came to just over 3,500, compared with 3,800 in March.  That works out to barely 0.3% of the total new vehicle market in April.


Obama Aims to Boost Battery Car Tax Credit

Proposal would raise figure to $10,000.

by on Feb.16, 2012

President Obama during the state-of-the-union address last month.

President Barack Obama wants to turn on the electric vehicle market and is proposing a significant increase in the already sizable tax credit available to buyers of battery cars and plug-in hybrids.

As part of his latest budget proposal, the President has proposed increasing the current $7,500 tax credit – available for vehicles like the Nissan Leaf and Chevrolet Volt – to $10,000 with the goal of boosting demand for the high-mileage vehicles.

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The Obama Administration has strongly backed the push for electric propulsion – which many experts believe will be essential to meet the strict fuel economy mandates set to go into place in 2025.

But despite following through on a State-of-the-Union promise to also include $4 billion in new subsidies for the oil and gas industries, the overall budget proposal appears to have little chance of passage, at least without significant changes.  Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, a Kentucky Republican, denounced the Obama budget as little more than a “campaign document.”


Toyota Proclaims “We’re Back”

Maker aims to regain lost ground in Europe – and then some.

by on Sep.14, 2011

Despite the year's product shortages, Toyota of Europe CEO Didier Leroy expects the maker to handily top its strong 2010 sales.

“We’re back,” proclaimed Didier Leroy, the CEO of Toyota of Europe, as he began the maker’s press preview at the 2011 Frankfurt Motor Show.

That might have seemed an odd thing to say less than a year ago, when Toyota seemed to have unstoppable momentum.  But that was before the Japanese earthquake of March 11 that brought the country’s auto industry to a near stop.  In the months that followed, Toyota lost about three-quarters of a million units of production.

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Working frantically with its suppliers, the maker says it has not gotten its plants in Japan, the U.S. and Europe back up and running at normal capacity as of this week.  Now it has to play a game of catch-up.


Toyota Formally Launches First Plug-In

Bringing range of hybrids to Europe.

by on Sep.14, 2011

The new Toyota Prius Plug-in on display at the Frankfurt Motor Show.

Underscoring the small but fast-growing presence of hybrids in Europe, Toyota brought its Prius Plug-in to Europe for its official world debut this week.

The plug-in will become part of an expanding “family” of hybrids sharing the Prius name, Didier Leroy, President of Toyota of Europe, told an audience at the Frankfurt Motor Show.  Set to reach the U.S. market, as well, in the coming months, the Prius Plug-in will have a larger battery pack than the conventional Toyota hybrid to permit it to drive longer distances in pure electric vehicle mode.

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Range will still be a modest 14.5 miles in battery mode – and will restrict the vehicle to speeds of around 60 mph.  That’s in sharp contrast to the Chevrolet Volt “extended-range electric vehicle” and its European sibling, the Opel Ampera, which get about 35 miles on a charge and can be used in electric mode at speeds up to around 90 mph.

Toyota, however, plans to sharply undercut the price of the two Detroit offerings.  Though the maker won’t reveal figures until closer to launch industry analysts expect something around or under $30,000 in the States – minus the federal $7,500 tax credit.  That could mean a buyer would get a plug-in from Toyota for about $10,000 less than a Volt.