Toyota Australia says that plug-in hybrids are still a niche product for our market and there is not enough demand to make a solid business case for such models.
Speaking with CarAdvice at the launch of the new 2016 Toyota Prius, Tony Cramb, executive director for sales and marketing of Toyota Australia, said that research into the local market has shown it’s still not the right time for Toyota plug-ins.
“When we have done the analysis for us, it’s not ready yet.” Cramb told CarAdvice. “The market is not ready yet, for the sorts of volumes that we need to bring in to make it worthwhile.”
It’s contrary to the likes of Mitsubishi, BMW, Audi and Mercedes-Benz, all of which have made a business case for their plug-in models. Not to mention front-runner Tesla with its full electric vehicles.
Toyota Australia’s manager of product planning, Michael Elias, said that while 20 per cent of Camry sales are of the hybrid variant, it’s still early days for plug-in models to be introduced to the Australian market.
“Plug-in is still a little bit of a niche offering and the market isn’t quite ready for that, [but] we never say 'never' and the market is always changing” Elias said.
Perhaps it also has to do with how far the Toyota brand can stretch locally, and whether buyers would be willing to give up on the conventional refuelling method.
“The feedback that we’ve had from our buyers is that they really appreciate the benefits that eco-friendly vehicles like the Prius and the other models in the hybrid range bring,” said Steve Coughlan, product public relations manager at Toyota Australia.
“With the convenience of normal operating you still go to normal fuel stations and put petrol in as required, the hybrid regenerative brakes work by themselves and charges the battery. There is no imposition on them at this stage to do anything over and above.
"Obviously this is a car for the mainstream, for the masses as well, so I think that, for the vast majority of people, this fulfils their requirements in an affordable sense with all the technology and specification without any change to their lifestyle," he said.
Toyota offers plug-in models in overseas markets with mixed sales results. Toyota Australia’s hybrid offerings will expand further with the introduction of the Corolla hybrid later this year, which joins the three existing Prius models.
The brand intends to have a hybrid variant of each model in the future.