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Toyota Dealers Not Interested In Selling Electric Cars, Prefer Hybrids

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Thanks to its ever-expanding range of hybrids, including the well-known Prius liftback, Toyota  Toyota dealers have a wide range of green cars to sell. 

You may think that would make them more receptive to selling all-electric cars, but a recent survey from AutoRetailNet (via plugincars) suggests otherwise.

In fact, the online publication for dealers reports, 85 percent of Toyota dealers say the automaker was correct to kill production plans for its electric Scion iQ city car just a week before it was due to debut at the 2012 Paris Auto Show.

At the time, Toyota had justified the decision by telling Reuters that electric cars “do not meet society’s needs.” 

For now, most Toyota dealers agree, with only 5 percent saying they believed all-electric cars would be the best-selling electric car technology in five years’ time. 

The majority, a massive 70 percent, said they believed regular hybrid cars would occupy that slot, while 10 percent said plug-in hybrids would be number one. 

Even though Toyota isn’t due to release its first production fuel cell car until 2015, 15 percent of dealers said hydrogen fuel-cell cars would sell in greater numbers than battery electrics.

Toyota iQ EV electric car at 2012 Paris Auto Show

Toyota iQ EV electric car at 2012 Paris Auto Show

Enlarge Photo

The reasons for this disinterest in electric cars seem wide and varied. On average, it takes a dealer a lot longer to sell an electric car than it does a gasoline car. 

In addition, the profit margins tend to be smaller, meaning less income for the dealer.

As a consequence, the job of selling plug-in cars may pass to junior salespeople, many of whom are just as keen to prove themselves with high-profit sales as their peers, but lack the experience and knowledge required to sell a plug-in car.

With the exception of a handful of Toyota dealers in California now selling the 2012 RAV4 EV electric crossover SUV, most Toyota dealers do not have a battery electric car to sell--and don't appear to have much interest in getting one.

They’d much rather sell a hybrid car, although for some, governmental pressure to sell high-mileage cars is unwelcome.

“The government is pushing CAFE regulations too hard and not allowing consumers to spend their own money,” one dealer in Arizona said in the survey. “Most customers will not spend an additional $6,500 to get a 20 percent increase in fuel [economy].”

This line of thought echoes the long-held position of the National Auto Dealers Association (NADA) trade group, which has been uniformly and consistently opposed to the higher 2017-2025 fuel-economy standards proposed by the EPA and NHTSA, and agreed to by most major automakers.

At dealerships where the attitudes toward electric and plug-in cars are positive, plug-in cars enjoy similarly positive sales figures. At dealerships where there’s an ambivalence toward plug-in vehicles, they can languish on the dealer lot for weeks. 

There’s clearly a lot of dealer prejudice against plug-in cars, but how should automakers, dealerships, and consumers solve it? 

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Comments (14)
  1. Electric vehicles need more marketing, both to consumers and dealers.
     
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  2. I'm hardly surprised, this is typical Toyota talk. They seem to have had a negative attitude towards EVs since the 90's.
    As for the fuel cell cars coming in 2015, well, good luck selling those Toyota.
    If they think electric doesn't meet society's needs, then trying to selling a catastrophically expensive fuel cell car with a fuel source that costs more than gasoline should give their salesmen a run for their money.
     
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  3. Prius is also the biggest threat to widespread EVs due to its high MPG.
     
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  4. Such a silly slant on the story. More than ten years after hybrids introduced to US market, something like 14 years after the Prius was introduced in Japan...

    Of course car dealers are more comfortable with a proven greener-option than with the all-electric option, which is is barely emerging now, from a sales perspective.

    Maybe another article could explore dealer attitudes in terms of comparable stages in the product/technology adoption curve, which could be rather more telling.
     
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  5. Agreed. Salespeople who have been selling hybrids for years feel more comfortable selling hybrids... Not a shocker. Interesting only to me because Toyota has this enduring green image that contradicts its stance in some areas. No problem, others will lead and Toyota will be conservative and enter later.
     
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  6. When companies take an negative stance like this they often get left behind. Just look at the American manufacturers, they're just catching up now to the Japanese in hybrid tech and the Prius is still the hybrid sales leader. I've weighed the pros and cons, and electric is the best way to achieve zero emission vehicles.
     
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  7. Well, Toyota is also "hedgingt" its bet by investing in Tesla... Which gives it a way to quickly turn around if it chooses to...
     
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  8. we needed an article to tell us this?? slow day at the office i am guessing?

    normally, i would ignore this and move on but quotes like

    "At the time, Toyota had justified the decision by telling Reuters that electric cars “do not meet society’s needs.” "

    really really REALLY gets my blood boiling. the real statement is that the World does not meet our society's current need. so what are we going to do about THAT!!
     
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  9. I think it's all in the cost/performance/buzz trade space.
    If we go back to $5/gas this fall, and winter, I imagine Hybrids will keep
    flying off the lots including the Pul in Hybrid.

    The other one is the rise in battery economics, as batteries become cheaper and more powerful, the range of plug ins will rise. Wether it's Fiskar or Volt or C-Max or Prius. As these become more common and people see their friends and coworkers not paying for gas, I expect, the adoption to increase.

    Hybrids are now a major seller and almost 2% of sales. If we keep having Gas price spikes, I expect Hybrids will become a larger part, especially as people become more comfortable with them and learn more about the lifespan of the motors and batteries.
     
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  10. It is NOT surprising. Toyota is a "leader" in hybrids. It has invested BILLIONs in its "synergy" hybrid drive train and now it is Leveraging that investments in just about all car platforms made by Toyota. Why would it promote EVs? It does NOT make investment sense for Toyota.
    That is where so many "green" supporters failed to understand with Toyota. It is a company that makes money. It could care less if it was gas guzzler (such as Sequoia, LX460, Land Cruiser, FJ Crusiers, Tundra...) or Green hybrid such as Prius. It saw a "market segment" and it worked out to "dominate" that segment.
    Toyota is NO more "green" than Chrysler. It is here to make money. But it also hedged its bets by investing in Tesla.
     
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  11. It's interesting that dealers are not turned-on by electric vehicles, but they foresee fuel cell vehicles selling in greater numbers. Wonder if views will change once dealers realize fuel cells just batteries that use an open-loop system for electrolyte vs. a closed system?

    The cool thing about Fuel Cell vehicles (FCEV) is they have much the same advantages of of Battery Electric vehicles (BEV) of high torque, quit interiors, & low carbon/particle emissions. FCEVs are ~twice as efficient as internal combustion, but ~1/2 as efficient as a BEV. However, the big unknown for FCEVs is access to hydrogen and cost to recharge (fill-up) the fuel cell. Plus for BEVs is any R&D advances made to FCEV power-trains can be applied to BEV power-trains.
     
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  12. Just wait until one huge explosion of the hydrogen gas, then all the dreams about FCV will go up in flames.

    Handling one of the MOST volatile gas in the world by "average" people at public average fueling station make me nervous.
     
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  13. Brian, my guess is that they just don't understand how far away fuel cells really are... Not trying to knock them and keep up the research, of course, but to claim that FCV will be better in 2015 than BEVs...

    But, dealers and car salespeople always prefer to sell what they know. I sell motors and I'm the same since it's just easier. If Toyota gets a decent, volume EV down the road, then I'm sure opinions will change.
     
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  14. "At the time, Toyota had justified the decision by telling Reuters that electric cars “do not meet society’s needs.”

    As a matter of principle, no company has the right to tell anyone what their needs are, nor decide what someone does or does not want.
     
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