LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) — Sales of the Kentucky-built Toyota RAV4 Hybrid have surged this year in what some auto analysts see as validation of the Japanese automaker’s more phased approach to electrification.
The SUV, which combines battery power with a gasoline engine to improve fuel efficiency, has been assembled at Toyota’s Georgetown, Kentucky plant since 2019. The Kentucky plant, Toyota’s largest in the world, manufactures about two-thirds of the RAV4 hybrids, which are also assembled in Ontario, Canada.
Toyota sold 134,492 RAV4 Hyrbids in the first ten months of 2022, up 43% from the same period last year, according to company figures. The vehicle’s success has bucked the industry trend, as overall auto sales are down about 12% so far this year, according to Cox Automotive.
The RAV4 Hybrid, which was introduced in 2016, has already hit an annual sales record this year. About 40% of RAV4s sold by Toyota so far this year are hybrids, including the plug-in version called RAV4 Prime, up from 27% two years ago, according to company figures.
As competitors such as Ford Motor Co. and General Motors embrace electrification with vehicles that eschew gasoline engines, Toyota has simply snuck into the space by offering hybrid and plug-in hybrid versions of its models. volume like the Camry, Corolla and RAV4.
For now, automotive customers are more comfortable with hybrids, which are generally cheaper than all-electric cars and not likely to run out of range due to a worn-out battery, Brian Moody said. editor of automotive publication Kelley Blue Book.
“The reason you see RAV4 sales increasing, especially with hybrids, is because that’s exactly the type of vehicle people want,” Moody said. “They want something that gets a lot of gas, they want something that’s affordable, and they want something that has the versatility and utility of a RAV4.”
The SUV travels around 40 miles per gallon and has a starting price of around $30,000 to $34,000, while similarly sized all-electric vehicles such as the Ford Mustang Mach-E, Volkswagen ID4 and Hyundai Ioniq cost more.
A Kelley Blue Book consumer survey shows that no electrified vehicle – whether hybrid, plug-in hybrid or all-electric – garners more interest than the RAV4 Hybrid.
Yet the majority of new-vehicle buyers weren’t interested in an electrified car. About 27% of buyers were considering a hybrid or EV in the third quarter of 2022, according to Kelley Blue Book.
“The good thing about the RAV4 is that when you start thinking that way – when you say to yourself, ‘Maybe I’ll get an electric car’ – and you go and look at the price of an electrified hybrid RAV4 , it’s not so shocking,” Moody said. “It takes a step closer to getting the car.”
Kentucky, the third-largest auto-producing state, has a lot to do with the future of the industry.
Ford and its Korean partner SK Innovation have announced plans for a $5 billion battery factory in Elizabethtown, Ky., with Governor Andy Beshear claiming the title of the “EV battery production capital” of the United States.
Toyota, which pioneered the hybrid car with its Prius in the 1990s, has therefore been slower to adopt fully electric vehicles.
The company dominates hybrid vehicle sales, accounting for about half of the industry so far in 2022, according to Kelley Blue Book.
Toyota announced in March 2019 that its Georgetown plant, which employs about 8,000 people, would gain production of the RAV4 hybrid starting with the 2020 model. The Georgetown plant was suffering from reduced volumes as consumers switched from sedans to SUVs. The plant also assembles the Camry and Lexus ES, as well as the hybrid versions of these sedans.