Financial Times. Toyota executives acknowledge that because of the still relatively low price of gasoline in the US, there is currently no financial incentive to purchase hybrids.
Kazuo Okamoto, who takes over as head of research and development at Toyota next month, said the extra costs of hybrid cars more than wiped out any financial gains of lower fuel consumption. Buyers in the US would have to want to help the environment, not just save money. In Japan and Europe, the extra costs were approximately balanced by fuel savings.
Toyota had set a target of reducing the extra cost of the hybrid to a level where it could compete on value with ordinary cars by 2010 at the current US petrol price of just over $2 a gallon, he said.
“The major barrier to wider acceptance is cost,” he said during a visit to Europe.
“When you just use the argument of fuel efficiency, the purchase of a hybrid car is not justified. But this car has other interests, for instance environmental protection.”
Another Toyota executive was more blunt in his analysis: “Buying a hybrid is about political correctness, it is not about the money,” he said.
Nonetheless, Toyota is targeting selling 1 million hybrids in 2010, even with gasoline prices at their current levels. (Increases in gasoline prices could, of course, accelerate that.)
The FT reports separately on the focus Toyota is putting on cost reduction in order to hit that figure of 1 million hybrids.