Australia is still years away from a significant switch to battery-electric vehicles, according to Toyota.
The country’s long-term sales leader has been slow to follow Tesla and start-up Chinese battery-electric arrivals in Australia and says it is waiting for a proper ‘game changer’ to flick the switch.
The bZ4X, a funky looking mid-sized SUV arriving early next year, is the start but not the end game.
“What on earth makes anybody think that you’re going to convert the Australian public in three years to BEVs and get their confidence. It’s an ongoing evolution,” the vice-president of sales and marketing at Toyota Australia, Sean Hanley, told CarExpert.
“It will be good for the brand to be able to stand up and say, actually, we do have a baby (bZ4X) in the market at this point, by the end of 2026 we will have another two.”
But Mr Hanley has flagged a heartland vehicle as the pivot point for Australia.
“The big ticket item for us in Australia will be the day we bring our first full BEV (Battery Electric Vehicle) commercial that has the capability to do the things Australians want to do,” Mr Hanley told CarExpert.
“I’ve got to say to you, right now, we don’t have that. But other people don’t have that.
“We talk about other car companies overseas who have trucks and they have this and they have that. Does anyone else have one that can do the things Australians want to do?
“Let me tell the Australian public, they actually can’t do the things that a person towing a three-and-a-half ton trailer with a LandCruiser can do today. And do easily.
“Sure, they can tow three-and-a-half tons, but they can’t go 700 kilometres. So we’ve got to get the narrative to the market truth.”
He does not have solid answers or a firm timeline for electrification, so Mr Hanley continues to push the ‘multi-pathway’ approach from Toyota headquarters in Japan.
“We believe that electrification will certainly accelerate. EVs will play a role,” he said.
“We have to get the market to a truth. That’s the significance of bZ4X.
“But we equally believe that electrification and a carbon-neutral future cannot be achieved quickly on a one dimensional powertrain strategy.
“So we’ll continue to put a lot of research and development around our electrification area, our hydrogen area, our fuel cell area.”
He pointed, again, to the latest Toyota concept vehicle for a future battery-electric HiLux.
“That’s an incredibly advanced vehicle. I think that’s another pointer in our direction.”
Deflecting criticism of its slow move into full battery-electric vehicles, Hanley highlighted Toyota’s approach with the hybrid models which currently have one of the longest waiting lists in Australia.
“Toyota has learned a lot about batteries. We’ve learned a lot about what the market expects.
“We’ve been doing this for a long, long time. We’ve been doing this in Australia since October, 2001,” he said.
“People tend not to give us any credit because they forget. We’ve learned a lot (from) the first 10 years of hybrids. We spent millions of dollars on myth busting.
“It’s taken us 15 to 18 years of myth busting to gain the confidence of the Australia consumer that hybrid is a credible, practical, reliable solution.”
Mr Hanley also highlighted the need for large-scale production to make electric vehicles more affordable and appealing.
“We’ve learned that the scale and volume takes time to reduce the price of the vehicle and get a change in price premium. That’s not going to happen overnight.”