The market has spoken. Time to take action.
Toyota is not stopping with the bZ4X EV. The Japanese automaker, while behind many of its mainstream rivals in the all-electric vehicle segment, is quickly playing catchup - and not only in America. No, it needs to take quick action in the world's biggest automotive market, China, where EVs are quickly becoming popular.
Reuters has learned Toyota is planning to launch a new EV small sedan in China sometime next year. However, it needs help doing this. The solution is BYD (Build Your Dreams), Toyota's local Chinese automaker partner. Toyota typically tends to shy away from partnerships, though the bZ4X and GR86 are exceptions. It prefers to do things in-house.
This time things are different because Toyota has experienced several frustrating years trying to develop an affordable and comfortable EV for China. This unnamed model isn't expected to be a direct Tesla Model 3 rival, but even Tesla CEO Elon Musk has acknowledged the need for an affordable EV for the Chinese market.
An anonymous source familiar with the pending Toyota-BYD agreement claims there was a "breakthrough" that convinced Toyota this was the right thing, BYD's less bulky lithium-ion phosphate batteries and its low-cost engineering experience. "The car was enabled by BYD battery technology," one source said. "It has more or less helped us resolve challenges we had faced in coming up with an affordable small electric sedan with a roomy interior."
BYD became globally famous back in 2008 when American investor Warren Buffet purchased a 10 percent stake. Since then, it's grown to become one of the world's biggest producers of alternative energy vehicles. Size-wise, Toyota's new EV sedan is expected to be slightly larger than the Corolla sedan or, as one source puts it, "a Corolla with [a] bigger back-seat section."
A concept version is due to be unveiled next spring at the Beijing Auto Show. An official name hasn't been announced but there's a very good chance it'll continue with the "bZ" moniker. It's highly unlikely this model will ever be sold in the US, or outside of China for that matter.