Survey Reveals Toyota Dealers’ Reluctance with Electric Cars

By · October 12, 2012



Based on results from a new survey by AutoRetailNet, a publication targeting dealers, Toyota dealers apparently don’t even want to try to sell an all-electric Scion iQ. And they love regular hybrids. But they do think Toyota will revive the electric Scion in the future.

If a dealer isn’t behind a car, it won’t sell. So Toyota made the right decision in almost killing the electric iQ for now. Dealers think Toyota will revive the electric Scion in the future. That may be a bad decision, because dealers don’t think battery electric cars will be selling well five years from now, either.
In late September, Toyota announced it would massively scale back plans to introduce a mini pure electric vehicle in the U.S. Vice chairman Takeshi Uchiyamada said pure electric cars do not meet society’s needs in terms of range, cost, or charging time.

In the survey, 85 percent of Toyota dealers said that was the right decision. (Full disclosure—I am the West Coast Editor of AutoRetailNet, so I read all the responses.) “The government is pushing CAFE regulations too hard and not allowing consumers to spend their own money,” said a dealer in Arizona. “Most customers will not spend an additional $6,500 to get a 20 percent increase in fuel.”

Though they don’t seem to like the model, 61 percent thought Toyota would revive the model at some time in the future. Only 5 percent thought battery electric vehicles would be the best-selling electric vehicle technology five years in the future. Yet, reviving the electric Scion iQ is perhaps a necessary decision for Toyota in order to meet various regulatory requirements ranging from CAFE to California’s Zero Emission Vehicle regulation.

So, what electric vehicle technology do the dealers think will be the best-seller in five years? Regular hybrid was the overwhelming choice at 70 percent. No surprise there. Ten percent thought plug-in hybrids would rule the EV roost in five years. And in a surprisingly strong showing, 15 percent thought hydrogen fuel cell vehicles would be the best-selling electric vehicles in five years.

Toyota has said it will launch a fuel cell vehicle in 2015. Rather than the SUV FCV it has shown in the earlier prototypes, the vehicle it launches in 2015 will be a small sedan, Craig Scott, the manager of advanced technologies group at Toyota Motor Sales USA, told me a few days ago. It just may sell well because dealers seem to think it will.


· · 5 years ago

It is regrettable that Toyota has not taken up the challenge of building viable electric cars. They should work a little harder to get the range of the iQ EV up to ~100 miles -- if the Smart Electric Drive 3 can do 90 miles, then the iQ EV could do 100. With some more engineering to lower the aerodynamic drag, I am fairly sure they could do it.

The RAV 4 EV is not widely available and it is too expensive. They need a PiP that can go 40-50 miles all electric, and the Prius C should have a similar plugin variant, too.


· · 5 years ago

So, if I'm reading this correctly, Alysha, the general stupidity, ignorance and intransigence of Toyota dealers regarding electric vehicles is a good thing? It's also somewhat comical that there is some perception that a hydrogen vehicle "just may sell well because dealers seem to think it will." They've got a lot to work on between now and 2015 . . .

· Spec (not verified) · 5 years ago

There is not much margin in EVs for the dealer . . . and worse, almost zero follow-on maintenance . . . no tune-ups, no smog checks, no oil changes, no air filter changes, no exhaust systems to replace, fewer brake jobs, no spark plugs, spark plug wires, distributor, etc.

· Bill Howland (not verified) · 5 years ago

15 % market penetration for Hydrogen in 5 years? What do they think the CO2 penetration is going to be in 38 years? 600% increase like Mr. Gore?

Seems like Gorr's disinformation campaign is very successful, hehe.

I thought the majority of west coast gas was nearing $5 per 4 quart gallon. I assume the majority of West Coast miles driven is within California. I'd think the price per mile would be like 1/3 with electricity, even in california.

Man, if dealers hate little bugaboos they will have with EV's, wait till they deal with Hydrogen Leaks, customers complaining about hydrogen infrastructure/ compressor costs, etc.(after all, someone somewhere has to pay for all this new piping, unless we have household hydrogen generation, and compression, which will be an even bigger problem than EVSE adoption) they'll be praying for EV's at that point.

What did the survey say about CNG cars? Those are the easiest to obtain and the easiest to 'charge'. There's a few compressor manufacturers already for home or service station use. And the fuel is cheap and readily available.

The powers that be and the Governator have been pimping this Hydrogen Highway for so long that people including Dealers who should know better, are believing its just around the corner. The basic problem here in general is the attitude that "Oh it MUST be TRUE, I saw it on TV!!!".

· Bill Howland (not verified) · 5 years ago

Oh man I read the article wrong, Not 15% market penetration, 15% of dealers believe it will be the MOST POPULAR (??!!) car? That just can't be right... There are no cars for sale currently. Dealers are not that dumb.

· · 5 years ago

I read the comments before the article and was going to chime in with a defense of the dealers’ intelligence – that is, before I encountered the bit about hydrogen! But first, the defense… If I were an Arizona Nissan dealer, I would not even sell or lease a LEAF without first getting customers to sign an agreement stating they had been told the car’s potential shortcomings and waive their rights to any legal action if those shortcomings materialize. GM’s Volt engineers appear to have done a better job protecting its battery but time will tell.

Now the hydrogen hoax – from the same administration that gave you Iraq and its weapons of mass destruction. But we live in a sea of BS – and it originates not just from the Dear Leader but from auto companies which play along with this hoax and crank out prototype hydrogen cars so expensive they must be leased because only people like Bill Gates could afford to buy one. And it is spread by people with a great command of the English language, like Jeremy Rikfin, but either no brain or no command of basic physics. (Let me rephrase that – even less command of physics than me.) I suggest you use the following question as a test of your dealer’s intelligence (integrity?): ‘Do you believe a hydrogen vehicle will be economically viable within my lifetime?’

· Volume Van (not verified) · 5 years ago

Let Tesla dealer sell their Model S and soon the Toyota dealers will learn.
If Toyota is killing Scion EQ, then what about RAV 4 EV.
As more plugins sell and the battery prices go down, the price of EVs will also go down.

· · 5 years ago

Toyota dealers don't want to sell them, because they won't sell. They are out there talking to customers. They know what it takes to sell a car. They have seen the sales numbers on other EVs. Most EVs don't have enough range, and they are expensive. They take too long to charge. It's very simple. Consumers don't see them as a good value or practical. They don't want ot babysit their cars.

· · 5 years ago

Don't forget also that in addition to being short ranged, this was a micro-car, even smaller than the Leaf. These don't sell well in the US even with ICE.
I tend to agree with you that an EV needs to be a no-compromise vehicle with enough range to do nearly all of one's normal daily driving.
I see this for most people as having at least 120 miles of real-world driving which, contrary to some hypermilers' perception, means exceeding the speed limit on freeways and using heating and air conditioning for at least a large portion of those miles. Anything less will just be a niche.
The Tesla Model S and RAV4EV are IMHO, the only BEVs that really live up and, without fast charging, I'm not even sure about the RAV4EV.

· SteveCh (not verified) · 5 years ago

From what I've read so far any electric car coming out will get way less range
than what the manufacturer says. I have no intention of paying good money
for a vehicle I can only trave 25-30 miles from home if I want to be able to make
it back. That's not owning a car, that's owning a toy. I also have no desire to
sit somewhere for a couple hours while my car recharges just so I can get home.
I think the Toyota dealers recognize my concerns.

· · 5 years ago

I leased my LEAF with the intention of buying if the ‘experiment’ panned out. It doesn’t look like it is going to. My expectation, my chief requirement, was far short of “at least 120 miles of real-world driving” – just 33 miles one way to the top of a nearby mountain. The LEAF met that expectation for about a year, but apparently at a huge cost.

There was no way of avoiding a 100% charge and a more or less complete discharge if I wanted to go even 33 miles. The downhill was paid for in advance, so to speak. So if I were selling LEAFs I would describe the trip as a 66 mile journey. But I’m not. (Actually, I guess by terminating my lease early I am in a manner of speaking.)

The point is there are several more EV battery issues buried in the expression “real world driving” that need to be addressed besides simply normalized range / battery capacity. The ability to deep-cycle is one. Coupled with that is the ability to leave the battery at 100% charge for a while without negatively affecting battery life. Otherwise, for most people, ex-EV1’s calculations of EV range 4 or 5 years into EV ownership are the ones vendors should be required to provide potential customers.

It seems pretty clear by now that Nissan’s failure to provide an active thermal management system for the LEAF was a mistake. It may be a mistake that can be fixed with just chemistry. But for all EV vendors it seems a much better ability for batteries to tolerate extreme environmental conditions is needed.

‘Range anxiety’ and the ability to quick-charge appear to be related issues. If batteries could be quickly recharged without impact on their longevity, minimum range requirements would drop substantially, at least for driving done mainly in urban and suburban areas. But even the 28 minutes required to bring the LEAF to an 80% charge is probably too long. If the traction battery remains the energy storage medium for EVs, huge reductions in charging time as well as increases in its energy storage capacity are going to be needed. Short of that, something like the ‘A Better Place’ technology will be a requirement.

P.S. Has anyone heard anything more about the ‘pump in’ charge gel the MIT students were trying to develop? Any recommendations for a lay-person tutorial on EV battery technology with specific emphasis on what features to look for in use and charging systems if you are considering buying or leasing an EV? When I was considering a LEAF, one of the ‘sales pitch’ lines Nissan used to address my concerns about their battery technology was the individual replace-ability of each of the component cells. Whether or not Nissan believed it, this apparently turned out to be not such a hot idea in practice. These are the kinds of issues it would be great to see addressed in a lay-person EV battery technology tutorial.

· Anonymous (not verified) · 5 years ago

This is another example of why car dealers are no longer useful in the modern world and are so universal hated. Time to change the laws to give the power back to the consumer by allowing everyone to diirectly buy from the manufacturer. Eliminate the middle man!

· SPIKE (not verified) · 5 years ago

In response to all the LEAF bashing comments: I own a LEAF for close to a year now and absolutely love my LEAF. I always get at least 70 miles a charge. i use the A/C and do not drive slow. When I do drive slow (avoiding the stress of highway driving) I can get 90 to 100 miles a charge. And I have never had to "wait around" to charge. Unlike having to babysit a gas car during a fill-up (those wasted minutes add up), when you charge an EV you are free to do as you please.

Finally, for those who think they will not be able to get where they are going in a LEAF try logging how many miles you drive in a day. If you are like 80% of drivers, you rarely ever go more than 25 to 30 mile a trip.

· Spec (not verified) · 5 years ago

@world2steven, you never should have got a Leaf. The Leaf is rated at 73 miles range by the EPA. You had a 66 mile round-trip up a mountain. If it was flat-land, that would be OK distance giving you some safety range. But 66 miles round trip including a drive up a mountain is beyond what the Leaf was designed to handle. Don't blame Nissan because you bought the wrong car.

· · 5 years ago

@ev-1 Driver, It appears that only Tesla has found a viable formula for BEVs. Build a car that performs like an ICE car, equip it as a high end luxury car, and price it so the battery costs are hidden in the overall value of the car.

Money is already tight for the middle class, and they just aren't going to compromise performance and utility for any car purchase, electric or not. A small group of people may go up a little in price for a range extended model, but that's it.

Toyota and their dealers don't want to bother with niche vehicles anyway. That's just not what they are about. They are a plain vanilla company that churns out fairly boring cars at high volume. The FJ Cruiser, even as popular as it has been, was rumored to be threatened for the chopping block at one time. It somehow has soldered on, in part because sales improved, and in part by the extreme loyalty of its buyers (read repeat buyers).

· · 5 years ago

Toyota niche vehicle = Lexus. Your attempt to rationalize for them just makes them look dumb.

· · 5 years ago

@Spec – opinions are like a**h****; everyone has one. My 66 mile trip is really only a 33 mile trip. On the descent, I have more charge at the bottom of the mountain than I had at the top. Giving Nissan the benefit of the doubt, they may not have had the data to tell me whether my principle intended use was compatible with the long-term health of a LEAF battery – though my dealer told me before I took delivery that he knew of at least one person who had already successfully made the trip.

Nissan’s CarWings database indicates that an average of 10 charge bars is needed to make the trip to the top with my private residence as the starting point. It shows a best case usage of 9 bars. Either of those figures is, for the duration of my lease, well within the purported 80% of remaining battery capacity the LEAF is supposed to have after 8 years unless almost all of the capacity loss occurs in the first 15 months.

The Nissan technical people think my problem is the result of a botched software update which they believe quite a few dealers may have done incompletely. They are going to take a look at my car. For the moment, this is an entirely believable explanation. I have pictures showing a 12 bar charge of a battery supposedly only capable of an 11 bar charge. After some initial unsatisfactory encounters with some lower level Nissan customer support personnel, Nissan gives every appearance of taking my concerns seriously and arriving at a fair settlement if they can not be addressed.

· · 5 years ago

@ev1 Driver, They didn't interview Lexus dealers in this article. Lexus has a separate dealer network in this country. Given how conservative Lexus buyers are, I doubt Lexus dealers would want EVs either.

· · 5 years ago

You said " They are a plain vanilla company that churns out fairly boring cars at high volume." Your statement above wasn't about the dealers, it was about the company which clearly balances 2 business strategies between their divisions.
The company churns out both high volume (Toyota) and low volume (Lexus).
Don't forget, however, that Toyota led with the original niche Prius as well. They took a loss for a few years but are on top now.
Perhaps another response to the original article would be; "Why is Toyota looking at selling EVs as Toyotas, not as Lexus or Prius?"
I do fully agree that Tesla seems to have found a strategy that appears to be sound.

· Spec (not verified) · 5 years ago


May I suggest you take some courses in physics and engineering and learn about thermodynamics. Regen systems in EVs are nice little feature that helps capture some power when braking but they tend to only capture a very small fraction. Most of the energy is lost in wind resistance, rolling resistance, drivetrain inefficiencies, normal braking, etc. Furthermore, the regen systems can only capture so much energy they have limited capacitance for capturing a fast charge upon regen braking.

So if you drive up a mountain and then back down you will not end up with the same amount of energy or an amount even close to it. If you are lucky, you might recapture 5% or 10% of that energy.

And you believed a car salesman? LOL.

· · 5 years ago

@Spec – What we have is a failure to communicate. No, even I don’t believe in perpetual motion machines. What I was referring to when I concluded it would be fair to count only the distance up the mountain in considering the range capabilities of the LEAF is the fact that I have been consistently “lucky” in capturing 17% (two bars) of regenerated energy on the descent. It just doesn’t seem relevant to include a part of a trip that generates more energy than it consumes when discussing the LEAF’s range.

Considerably more relevant would have been what would have happened if I’d had about ten more miles of climb with the same grade. I can confidently predict, without a course in engineering or physics, that I would not have made it. Something south of 43 is a lot further south of the 73 mile EPA range estimate.

Now I can forgive Nissan for not including a section in their documentation discussing my personal needs. But I can also forgive myself for concluding that a car with an officially validated 73 mile range and a battery expected to retain 80% of its capacity for 8 years would get me 33 miles up a mountain for a long time to come.

· · 5 years ago

@Spec - My initial 'Customer Service' contacts at Nissan may have fit your description as "car salesman". But once you get up the chain a little Nissan's technical support people, at least to date, appear to be competent, straight-shooters.

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