Sometimes journalists miss the forest for the trees, and we'll plead guilty on this one.
When we wrote last week that the Toyota Mirai hydrogen fuel-cell sedan was little-changed for the 2017 model year, with only one new color added, we missed one important element.
That was, as several readers informed us, that while the retail price remained the same, the monthly lease cost had fallen sharply: from $499 to $349 per month.
And that lower lease cost contributed to what can only be described as a remarkable sales spike for the Mirai last month.
From January through July, the Mirai sold at a rate of about 40 a month, logging a total of 270 sales over seven months.
Then, in August, a whopping 371 were delivered, more than doubling the annual total to 641.
2017 Toyota Mirai
Most of those deliveries were to Toyota employees, , according to Jana Hartline, the company's environmental communications manager. In response to a reader tip sent to this site, Hartline wrote,
We did offer a Mirai team member lease program in August. I can say a good majority of the month’s volume went to that program, which was a way to transition to the new [model year]. As with all our vehicles, team members are offered special lease pricing.
With 21 retail hydrogen stations open today, the majority located in SoCal where most team members live, and four to five more coming online before year end, it was a good time to offer the Mirai to our California team.
ALSO SEE: Toyota Mirai: First Drive Of Hydrogen Fuel-Cell Sedan (Dec 2014)
The cut in the monthly lease cost was noted by industry trade journal Ward's Auto, which quoted Bill Fay, Toyota's group vice president, on the reasons for the reduction.
The company felt it would be "a little bit helpful to have a more affordable payment,” Fay said, to boost awareness of the zero-emission vehicle in the markets where it's offered.
Fay also conceded, according to Ward's, that "California’s hydrogen infrastructure has been slower to develop than Toyota had hoped."
2016 Toyota Mirai hydrogen fuel-cell car, Newport Beach, CA, Nov 2014
Of the 50 hydrogen fueling stations that were to have been open in California by the end of this year, the real number will be "more like 30," according to another Toyota executive.
In comparison, electric-car charging stations are not only cheaper, but have the benefit of 15 years of prior experience in the state, whereas each hydrogen station is a new experience for the municipality in which it's installed.
The new three-year $349 monthly lease price on the Mirai requires a down payment of $2,499. That too was reduced from the previous $3,649, exclusive of taxes and fees.
All Mirais are eligible for what Toyota calls a "Trailblazer" discount of $7,500, and qualify for a Federal income-tax credit of $8,000 and single-occupancy access to the carpool lane on California's notoriously crowded freeways.
Toyota has continued its financing rate of 0 percent over 60 months, but has also added a new 1.9-percent rate over 72 months.
All Mirai deliveries also come with free hydrogen fuel for three years or $15,000 worth, free rental vehicles for seven days a year for three years, and free maintenance for the same period.