Aug 27, 2008 (From the CalCars-News archive)
Magnussen's Toyota of Palo Alto is one of the nation's top Prius dealers. A few days ago, responding to the steadily increasing number of customers who said "I want my next car to plug in," the dealership decided to begin taking deposits for plug-in 2010 Priuses. As far as we know, this has nothing to do with any new decisions or plans by Toyota Corp.
The dealer is accepting $500 deposits. If you're interested, contact Eric Doebert, Business Development Manager, at 650.494.2100 and leave your phone number so he can talk to you. But let's not overload Eric with customers from thousands of miles away: you're best off working to encourage your local dealer, even without knowing specific terms, to take deposits for PHEVs.
WHAT WE THINK ABOUT THIS NEWS: Here's our quote: "One Toyota dealer moving ahead of the pack will encourage others, and help speed the arrival of PHEVs into the market. We hope carmakers will get the message that their customers want plug-in cars, and accelerate their plans. Without waiting for any new technology or infrastructure, Toyota could begin to build and sell first-generation plug-in hybrids now to early adopters and fleet customers. And as batteries improve, 'good enough to get started' will become 'better and better.'" In a few months, we expect a new President will push for tax credits to reduce the incremental costs for PHEVs. What better time to get started?
WHAT YOU CAN YOU DO: Encourage other dealers to follow Toyota of Palo Alto's lead. Tell your car dealer for ANY type of car that you want to buy one that can plug in. Go to http://www.calcars.org/sponsor.html and become a CalCars supporter. With a contribution of $25 or more, get a sticker for your car saying, "100+MPG hybrids." And at Plug In America's store http://www.cafepress.com/pluginamerica get stickers that say, "My Next Hybrid" (or My Next Prius): No Plug? No Deal."
TOYOTA AND PHEVS: Toyota has so far committed only to produce 400 PHEVs for fleet evaluation during or before 2010. Toyota.has converted a small number of Priuses by adding a second nickel-metal hydride battery and changing the software so the car can travel at up to 62 MPH all electrically for about 8 miles. See multiple postings at CalCars-News http://www.calcars.org/news-archive.html .
TOYOTA AND ITS DEALERS: This is the second time dealers are taking the initiative: the first time came in June: see "Toyota Dealers Break Ranks with Company, Offer Conversions" http://www.calcars.org/calcars-news/958.html and since then, several dealers have begun converting vehicles using the Hymotion/A123 technology.
PREVIOUS INDICATIONS OF DEMAND: Plug-In Partners has assembled "soft fleet orders" for over 8,000 vehicles of different types. At Chevy-Volt.com, over 33,000 have signed up as serious customers for the Volt. And we think back to how Toyota customer responded in the past: see the Toyota Winter 2007 survey http://www.toyota.com/html/hybridsynergyview/2007/winter/question.html where, when asked what they wanted in hybrids, 39% of respondents wanted PHEVs; a total of 94% wanted PHEVs/higher fuel economy/alternative fuel hybrids and only 6% wanted "higher power output." (Toyota's mostly-muscle Lexus hybrids have managed to prosper, though some buyers also complain.)
ABOUT MAGNUSSEN'S TOYOTA: http://www.toyotapaloalto.com : The company is one of the top-selling Prius dealers in California. Eric Doebert, Business Development Manager, has been at the dealership 11 years. In 2002, he sold 21 of the Toyota production-quality RAV4 EVs to Bay Area people -- and as far as he knows, all those customers still own those cars. Eric has shown up at every one of the annual EV Rallies in Palo Alto. Of course I went to him to order my 2004 Prius; I got one of the first cars that came to California in October 2003. Since that car was converted in April 2006, we've gotten nothing but cooperation from the dealer. The first few times I showed up for an oil change, all the technicians and salespeople crowded around the vehicle, talking enthusiastically about how they were seeing the future.
HOW WE HEARD ABOUT THIS: Thanks to Arthur Keller, a longtime CalCars supporter going back to our founding meeting in 2002, and a board member of the Electric Auto Association. He and his wife Marianna Grossman Keller, own two RAV4 EVs. When Arthur was called and offered a chance for a 2010 plug-in Prius at the Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price with "options and colors to be selected later when demo Prius arrives," he became one of the first to sign up.