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People can't get enough hybrid SUVs

The demand for hybrid versions of the Subaru Forester and Toyota RAV4 has hit fever pitch.

Demand for petrol-electric hybrid cars continues unabated, and it’s not just Toyota that is dealing with a shortage of stock.

Subaru has two models in its hybrid portfolio locally - the Forester e-Boxer and XV e-Boxer hybrid models - which have both seen reasonably high levels of demand in Australia.

Subaru Australia managing director Blair Read told CarsGuide that the brand would sell more hybrid models if they were more readily available from the factory - a similar story to that of the RAV4 hybrid model, which in some specifications has wait times of up to 12 months.

“Forester hybrid is about eight to 10 per cent of the model mix of total Forester sales. In terms of demand for that vehicle versus our availability at the moment, it’s going extremely well,” said Mr Read. 

“XV hybrid is similar. If anything, it performs better than Forester hybrid in terms of model mix, but it’s maybe 12 per cent.

“Both of those numbers are influenced by available production for us. So, we’re always trying to get more,” said Mr Read, referring to the current shortage of eco-focused hybrid vehicles in Australia and the increased demand for such cars globally.

Subaru says it won’t yet look to expand its hybrid model range, with Mr Read stating an expansion is a “work in progress”, but the company will - in 2023 - offer a fully-electric SUV in the form of the Solterra, and the company has no plans to bridge the gap between hybrid and full EV models with plug-in hybrid (PHEV) variants.

Subaru Forester. Subaru Forester.

Toyota is the poster on the wall of every automotive product planner’s office, with its huge success in the petrol-electric hybrid market being the standout example both in Australia and around the world.

Toyota’s supply and demand situation is challenging, to say the least. There have been multiple reports of wait times stretching 12 months for some hybrid models, such as the high-spec RAV4 Cruiser. Despite that, the brand has delivered 28,376 hybrid vehicles from 1 January to 22 May 2022, compared to 26,564 hybrid vehicles over the same period last year - meaning an increase of 6.8 per cent, year-on-year.

Toyota Rav4. Toyota Rav4.

“Being both affordable and practical, we see Toyota hybrid electric vehicles as an ideal powertrain choice for consumers looking to save money at the fuel pump while reducing their environmental impact,” said Toyota Australia vice president of national sales, marketing and franchise operations, Sean Hanley.

“In Australia, to support the strong demand, we’ve been working closely with our global production teams to secure as many vehicles for our market as possible during ongoing global supply challenges.

“Together with our parent company, we’ve been very successful. However, local demand for Toyota vehicles, and in particular hybrid variants, continues to grow, with the result that customer wait times have been affected.

“The wait time varies depending on the model, variant and specification requirements of each customer – the RAV4 Hybrid and Camry Hybrid are in particularly high demand and currently have longer wait times.

“Our dealers will continue to provide updates to our customers on delivery timeframes for individual orders and we thank our customers for their support.”

Challenger brands like GWM Haval are also looking to get in on the action when it comes to petrol-electric vehicle demand, with the recently launched Haval H6 midsize SUV off to a strong start.

Haval H6.

Haval H6.

GWM Australia & New Zealand head of communications, Steve Maciver, told CarsGuide that the brand hasn’t quite got a clear view on the supply situation for this model as the company is awaiting details of next shipments.

“We are quietly confident, however, of seeing supplies come through in good numbers shortly,” said Mr Maciver.

“Feedback from customers on the H6 Hybrid has been positive with dealers seeing plenty of enquiry. The growing consensus from customers is that the H6 Hybrid is a smart choice as it offers a compelling combination of value, safety, comfort and technology combined with improved fuel efficiency.

“With customers generally becoming more comfortable with how hybrid works and its benefits, we’re seeing more and more interest.”