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Toyota’s been a longtime pioneer of the hybrid vehicle, but the company has been oddly critical of a completely electrified future. It wasn’t until this past month, November of 2021, that it unveiled its first fully electric vehicle, the bZ4X. Toyota is now playing catch-up, and a recent report detailed the Japanese automaker’s thoughts on how electric vehicles will fit in its lineup. The plan is a bit different from the all-in EV push from other automakers, and Toyota will likely use EV range as a major factor in how its vehicles are priced and classified.

Welcome to Headlight. This is a daily news feature that lights up one current event in the car world and breaks it down by three simple subheadings: What HappenedWhy It Matters, and What To Look For Next. Look for it in the morning (Eastern time) every weekday.

What Happened?

In an exclusive interview with GreenCarReports, Toyota’s VP of North American Product and Planning Cooper Ericksen gave a big-picture overview of what Toyota’s electric vehicle push will look like. In short, Toyota’s aiming for affordability, and the rest of the products will follow suit. To Ericksen (and Toyota), a car’s range is similar to horsepower in that it’s something someone with a big budget would pay for, while those who are on a small budget will have to settle for less. Toyota plans to “match the range to what the customer can afford,” banking that eventually range anxiety and concerns will fade as EVs become more commonplace. 

Toyota does have plans in the works to cater to customers who want faster, longer-range EVs, but it has the low-end market in mind. In this plan, it’s all about being able to deliver the right product for the right price. It’s all very curiously “wait and see” for the automotive giant.

Why It Matters

Electric vehicles seem to be the way of future motoring, and they will comprise a large part of nearly every automaker’s future plans. Toyota’s been oddly quiet in the EV scene, even outright hostile about them, instead preferring to put more development into hydrogen fuel cell technology. Its hostility has led many to believe that Toyota could be potentially left behind if and when EVs become a driving force in the car market. Yet, these plans show that Toyota’s waiting to see what will happen with the market, with plans to court lower-income customers. Your next cheap EV could be Toyota branded.

What To Expect Next

The Toyota BZ4X is claimed to have a range of up to 250 miles and is estimated to appear on dealer lots in the middle of 2022. That range does seem to align with what Toyota said, as 250 miles is nowhere near the top-end range expected of certain luxury cars. For the premium convenience of more range, expect an upscale Lexus-branded electric car to appear in the very near future. 

Cooper Ericksen’s interview alludes that cheap, low-range, low-cost Toyota-made EVs could already quietly be in development. From the tone of the interview, it seems like Toyota’s future EV efforts are dependent on the success of the bZ4X and other cheaper competitors. Only time will tell.

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