Aug 25, 2007 (From the CalCars-News archive)
More great news:
- Toyota puts a price tag on the selling price increment for a PHEV: $5-$10K. That's better than we've heard in the past, and closer to our estimate of $3-$5K.
- Toyota's Bill Reinert sees a market but doesn't know how big it is.
- Bloomberg, which last week broke the story that GM insiders say the company may produce 30-60,000 Chevy Volts its first year, hears from Synovate market research more about its study, including the comment that when people understand what a PHEV is, "consideratio exceeds that of regular hybrids.''
- Taking Synovate's 10% of the market estimate gives us over 1.5 million potential 'motivated customers' per year in the U.S.
As for the price increment, this should motivate those in Washington DC and in state capitols looking at at buyer and seller incentives. And what about those companies that offer employee rebates of $2,500-$5,000 for buying 45MPG hybrids? They're starting to ask, how long do you have to give bounties to to buyers of cars that are among those already moving fastest off dealers' lots? When PHEVs are within view, we expect them to move to limit rebates to PHEVs.
Toyota Wary of Consumer Demand for Plug-In Hybrids (Update2)
By Alan Ohnsman
Aug. 24 (Bloomberg) -- Toyota Motor Corp., maker of the world's best-selling gasoline-electric car, says extensive U.S. consumer tests are needed before it offers hybrids that can be recharged at household outlets for limited all-electric driving.
"There is a consumer market at some price-point for plug- ins,'' Bill Reinert, national manager for advanced vehicle technology at Toyota's U.S. unit, said in an interview yesterday. ``We just don't yet know the size of that market.''
Toyota's caution reveals a difference in approach between the Japanese automaker, which has sold more than 800,000 Prius hybrids globally since 1997, and General Motors Corp., which wants to build as many of 60,000 Volt plug-in electric cars in the model's first year, people with knowledge of GM's plans said earlier this week.
Automakers are competing to develop fuel-efficient, low- emission vehicles as major markets tighten environmental rules and fuel prices rise. Plug-in hybrids that rely solely on electricity for limited distances would join gasoline-electric autos and hydrogen fuel-cell cars as possible alternatives to conventional internal-combustion power.
The Volt would theoretically travel about 40 miles after being charged at a household outlet. It would also have an on- board engine to generate electricity when the battery runs down.
Toyota plans road tests later this year of modified Priuses with rechargeable nickel-metal hydride batteries that allow about eight miles of all-electric range. Bob Lutz, vice chairman of Detroit-based GM, said this month that GM will test Volt prototypes with similar range by 2008.
Toyota's U.S. tests, to be conducted at the University of California in Berkeley and Irvine, will be aimed at determining how easy plug-ins are to use, gather drivers' experiences with the cars, and measure how much they boost fuel economy.
"I know there's a lot of enthusiasm right now about plug- ins,'' Reinert said in the interview. "I'm a little cautious about how much of that ends up as real consumer behavior.''
Plug-ins will probably be heavier than conventional autos, owing to the need for hundreds of pounds of batteries. Extra batteries to provide all-electric range could add between $5,000 and $10,000 to the cost of such a car, more than many consumers may be willing to pay, Reinert said.
The 2008 "standard'' Prius is priced at $20,950. GM's 60,000-unit volume goal for the Volt could allow it to be priced at less than $30,000, said people with knowledge of the plans.
The market for plug-in cars isn't clear "because awareness is very low,'' said Scott Miller, chief executive officer of Synovate Motoresearch, a market research company in Royal Oak, Michigan. "When people are educated, consideration is very high and exceeds that of regular hybrids.''
In a survey of 5,000 consumers conducted in December and January, about 10 percent said they'd be willing to pay ``substantial'' premiums for a plug-in hybrid once they understood the concept, Miller said.
When Toyota introduced the Prius in 1997, Miller said, it faced the same skepticism about affordability and technological hurdles.
"We can develop the best technology cars in the world, but society has to be ready to use them,'' Reinert said. "We're going to see that real soon with plug-in vehicles.''