Toyota says there’s no demand for electric vehicles – maybe you’re trying to sell one on which the wheels stay on?

Toyota is back, saying there isn’t enough demand in the US for electric vehicles – most of which are currently suffering from months of backlogs in the US due to high demand. Even their own bZ4X has a waiting list because, well, the wheels keep dropping.

The comments came from Jack Hollis, executive vice president of sales at Toyota Motor North America during a webinar hosted by the Automotive Press Association.

Hollis was talking about the US government’s plan to boost electric vehicle sales to 50% by 2030, a target that falls short of what is needed to avoid the worst effects of climate change and is significantly less ambitious than the California’s plan to end gasoline vehicle sales by 2035 (and reduce them by 68% by 2030), which could also likely be stronger.

But, according to a new poll, American voters are going even further, supporting an end to gas-powered car sales nationwide by 2030, a stronger proposition than the current US plan and even California’s plan.

And the most popular electric vehicle company in the United States – which sells twice as many electric vehicles as all other automakers combined – already sells no gas-powered vehicles in 2022. And, despite the continued increase in the levels of production for over a decade, it still hasn’t found a ceiling for demand. In fact, the company has been currently sold out for months, even after recent continuous price increases.

Despite all that, Hollis, whose company currently sells no BEVs in the United States, thinks he knows better than governments, the public and the companies that actually produce EVs.

Hollis claimed:

I don’t think the market is ready. I don’t think the infrastructure is ready. And even if you were willing to buy one, and if you could afford it… (the price is) still too high… It took 25 years to get to less than 10% (market share) for the hybrid… The consumer is not demanding (EV) at this level. The consumer is not shouting, ‘30% or 40% by tomorrow’.

To break it down point by point:

  • Is the market ready? It seems so, given that no EV manufacturer can currently meet the demand.
  • Is the infrastructure ready? A DoE study indicated that there is more than enough spare capacity to power EVs, and the flexibility of EV charging times or the potential for V2G can help increase grid resilience.
  • Can you afford it? The 2023 Chevy Bolt starts at $25,600 and will have access to the renewed $7,500 EV tax credit and additional state and local credits. There are other low-cost EVs available, and the Cut Inflation Act even includes a $4,000 credit for low-cost used EVs. However, getting back to the point of demand – prices are high on used EVs right now because demand is so high for EVs.
  • But it took 25 years to reach 10% for hybrids! They’re electric vehicles, not hybrids – hybrids are a compromise technology, not an end goal. They offer little change in how people use the vehicles since they are still 100% gasoline powered (although they are more efficient and there are benefits for widespread adoption). Additionally, we have already exceeded 10% for electric vehicles in California, and the national market share for electric vehicles is around 5% in the first half of 2022, compared to 2.5% last year. Extrapolate that to find out how difficult it will be to reach 10%.
  • The consumer does not want “30% to 40% by tomorrow”. According to the survey cited above, a majority of American consumers actually want stricter regulations than those proposed by the government. And in the most forward-looking country, Norway, consumers have even exceeded the world’s first government targets.

This isn’t the first time Toyota has shown ignorance and opposition to the electric vehicle market. Executives at different levels of the company have made similar public statements in the past, up to and including Akio Toyoda, the CEO. The company regularly greenwashes and disseminates scientifically illiterate anti-EV propaganda, while lobbying against human life and indoctrinating children against EVs.

While the company has begun to tentatively recognize the need to move into electric vehicle sales and invest in production capacity, we’re still seeing public statements like Hollis’s. There’s a lot of internal resistance within the company, and even if Toyota wanted to turn the ship around, it would have to deal with a lot of “old-fashioned” thinking among its executives, as Hollis’ comments show.

But Toyota’s continued stance on electric vehicles may be influenced by its experience. Its first battery electric vehicle program is currently on indefinite hold and recalled after only a few hundred sales because the wheels were falling off. Maybe if they tried to sell an EV that didn’t have the wheels falling off, they’d see a little more demand.

Electrek’s Grasp

As we’ve seen in the EV market, while serious EVs work well, half-baked models don’t. Consumers want electric vehicles, but if one company doesn’t take its efforts seriously, consumers will simply turn to another company that will. EV buyers just aren’t interested in first-generation EVs in 2022, a decade after the Tesla Model S (arguably a second-generation EV), hit the road.

hybrid ev phev adoption over time

Hollis’ comments on hybrids also present Toyota’s sour grapes that it can no longer rest on its hybrid laurels. He pushed the hybrid as the technology of the future and refused to switch to electric vehicles. But instead of picking up the pace and trying to catch up on innovation when it became clear they were behind, he’s still trying to convince the world he was right.

This intransigence can only lead to Toyota’s decline, and it must recover, otherwise it will not only hurt itself, but the entire Japanese economy.

As Hollis says – in 25 years hybrids have only reached 10% and seemed to have plateaued until last year, so clearly consumers just aren’t interested. Maybe that will happen with electric vehicles, but I bet it won’t.

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