What can Toyota do about it?
According to a new report from Automotive News, Toyota Prius owners are switching allegiances. Instead of trading in their current Prius hybrid for a new one, they’re instead opting for a Tesla. Given the strong sales of the new Model 3, we wouldn’t be surprised to learn that many of these EV buyers previously drove a Prius but wanted to take the so-called next technological step. At the moment, Toyota does not offer an all-electric vehicle aside from the Mirai hydrogen fuel cell.
However, that vehicle is expensive with a list price of $57,500, although it does come with three years of complimentary fuel and two years of free maintenance to help offset the initial price tag. But there is another factor hindering its popularity: a lack of hydrogen refueling stations.
Aside from that, hydrogen fuel cell vehicles simply haven’t caught on the way EVs have, and Tesla certainly played a significant role in that. The Automotive News report claims Toyota has "an overall defection rate to other brands of about 9 percent, and about half of that is made up of Prius owners going to Tesla.” That information comes directly from Jim Lentz, CEO of Toyota North America. Given that Toyota is fully aware of this, the question now is what is it going to do about it?
During our own conversation with Jack Hollis, group vice president and general manager of Toyota North America, he reiterated the carmaker will offer an electrified version for all of its current and future models in the very near future, but refused to go into detail about which of these models will become or remain hybrids and which will receive the full-on battery-electric treatment.
Not long ago, another Toyota official admitted that perhaps it was time to re-think the Prius somewhat. Although the current fourth-generation debuted in 2015 and recently underwent some updates and the arrival of an all-wheel-drive version, it was an interesting acknowledgment that something new needs to happen for the eventual fifth-gen model. Will it become a pure electric?
Given the growing number of EVs from mainstream brands on the road and the debut of Volkswagen’s first of many I.D.-branded EVs later this year, we wouldn’t be entirely surprised to see the next Prius ditch its internal combustion engine for good.