Time to kiss the Prius goodbye?
For years Japanese automakers like Toyota refused to dive into the electric vehicle business. For its part, Toyota preferred to invest R&D in hybrids, plug-ins and hydrogen fuel cell vehicles. After all, it was the first mainstream brand to bring to market an affordable hybrid, the Prius. But times have changed and fellow brands like Mazda and Subaru, which currently don’t even offer hybrids in the US, will soon be launching EVs in 2019 and 2021, respectively, according to Automotive News.
In fact, all major Japanese brands, Toyota included, have concluded they have no choice but to bring EVs to market on a much larger scale, especially in light of the Chevrolet Bolt and upcoming Tesla Model 3. The only major exception here is, of course, Nissan with its Leaf. "The overall industry is now shifting its electrification focus towards EVs," stated Yasuyuki Yoshinaga, CEO of Fuji Heavy Industries, which manufacturers Subarus. "We are in the age where we cannot just go on launching EVs only as regulation compliance cars." Question is, which segments will Japan tackle in the EV market? Subcompacts? Compacts? Crossovers?
Volkswagen, for example, has been quite vocal about its intention to build EVs in various segments, so it’d make sense for another large automaker, Toyota, to do the same. Smaller brands, like Mazda and Subaru, are going to have to be much more selective due to limited funds. There’s also going to be increased competition coming from China, and there’s no way Japan wants to be left behind here. So does this mean that a future Toyota Prius could become an EV? Is the just launched hydrogen fuel cell Mirai already on borrowed time? It’s honestly too soon to tell, but make no mistake: Japan is about to get into the EV business.