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Is Toyota too late? Electric car demand is soaring, but the brand's first EV is still ages away! | Opinion

The Toyota bZ4X electric SUV will get here in 2023, but other brands have already beaten it to the punch.

If you take a look at the top 10 best-selling car brands in Australia, you’ll see that most have moved towards offering an electric car as part of their mix.

Some have a strong legacy in the EV space, others are newer to the world of electric car mobility.

But one thing seems clear - Toyota is running late for the EV party. And to me, it looks like the brand is close to being embarrassingly behind, rather than just fashionably late.

Let’s take a look at the mix of brands in the top 10, and when they launched their first EV in Australia:

  1. Toyota - first EV due 2023
  2. Mazda - MX-30 EV first electric car on sale, from mid-2021
  3. Mitsubishi - i-Miev pioneered the EV space, sold from 2010-2012
  4. Kia - Niro EV first electric vehicle on sale, from early 2021
  5. Hyundai - Ioniq EV first electric car on sale, from 2018-2022
  6. Ford - Transit electric van due in 2022
  7. MG - ZS EV, Australia’s most affordable electric car at the time, launched early 2020
  8. Isuzu Ute - no EV in sight
  9. Subaru - Solterra EV SUV due early 2023
  10. Nissan - Leaf electric hatch launched way back in 2012

So, there’s a clear push for electric cars to be a part of the line-up for each of these brands, so where’s the Toyota electric car?


It’s coming. The new bZ4X - which is co-developed with Subaru’s new Solterra, also due in 2023 - will likely hit the nail on the head for the Japanese brand.

A friend of mine said to me the other day, “so it’s just like an electric RAV4, right?”. And yes, in a lot of ways the bZ4X will be exactly that - it’s a mid-size SUV, has five seats, a big boot, 2WD and AWD models expected… and like some price-gougers out there with high-spec RAV4s, it’ll probably squeeze into the $60K price range. Maybe.

The established brands are just the tip of the iceberg, though. Obviously, Tesla is an important competitor to consider, but others like BYD and GWM’s electric car company Ora could pose a headache for Toyota. 

Then there’s VW, with the ID.4 and ID.5 SUVs due in 2023. Its offshoot brands Skoda (Enyaq SUV) and Cupra (Born crossover hatch) will both also launch soon. 

And while Toyota is hardly a traditional competitor to the likes of Mercedes, Audi, BMW, Porsche, Volvo and even Mini, those brands all offer customers the choice of an electric vehicle… while Toyota doesn’t have anything to offer buyers who were ready to shift to the EV lifestyle yesterday.

For years now the brand has been telling us that customers don’t want to be bothered by cables and charging stations, range anxiety and all the issues that come with plug-in cars. Specifically, the company has constantly pushed back when asked about plug-in hybrid models, of which it has plenty in other markets.

But the automotive industry is at the point of a new dawn, where brands can’t afford not to have an EV in their range, because they will miss out on sales as a result.

Will it cost Toyota its number-one sales spot in Australia - a crown it has worn for 25 years…? No. It won’t. Not if there’s still petrol and diesel available at the servo, and a few hundred dealerships around the country. 

Of course, with Toyota being Toyota, the company announced in December 2021 that it has an extensive plan to reshape its model range to include 16 new BEV (battery electric vehicle) models, including a handful of SUVs, cars and even a ute. That line-up will expand to 30 global EV models by 2030.

That’s all well and good, and the educated spectator will know that Toyota will meet the market where it needs to be met… but how many other brands will have multiple fully electric offerings by 2030?

But, today, when I’m writing this, and tomorrow, and for every day until the launch of the first Toyota electric car in Australia, it will remain a yawning gap in the brand’s range.