Toyota Hybrid Sales Will Hurt bZ4X

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Toyota Mirai

Image: Toyota

Electrified Toyotas are well on their way to becoming more expensive, General Motors is very proud of the number of non-binding reservations it received for its first electric pickup, and Aston Martin is in some trouble. All the car news that’s fit to print in this Friday edition of The Morning Shift for January 7, 2022.

1st Gear: Toyota’s On The Bubble

Toyota moved roughly 52,000 plug-in electric vehicles in 2021, the company announced earlier this week as part of its year-end sales report. InsideEVs crunched the numbers and determined that that places the company at just over 190,000 sold in the U.S. all time. As you may know, once an automaker hits 200,000, things begin to change.

For the two quarters after the one in which a carmaker passes the 200K threshold, it can keep its $7,500 federal tax credits for customers. After that, the credit is halved to $3,750 for another two quarters; then $1,875 for two more, then none. The “none” status is where Tesla and GM have been for quite some time now. Congratulations Toyota — you’ve made it to the cool kids’ club, all without selling a mass-production battery-electric car.

This writing has been on the wall for some time. Back in mid 2020, EVAdoption projected Toyota would hit 200K in the second quarter of 2022. If the manufacturer repeats its Q4 2021 performance, when it sold 10,376 PHEVs across the Prius Prime, RAV4 Prime, hydrogen-powered Mirai and Lexus NX 450h+, it’ll cross that threshold in the first quarter of this year. That would mean that by Q4 2022, it would only be able to offer up to a $3,750 credit.

Lexus NX450h+

Lexus moved 18 of these last year. Every little bit counts!
Image: Toyota

This is kind of a big deal because, as InsideEVs astutely points out, Toyota’s first mass-market battery-electric car for North America is due later this year. In other words, only the bZ4X’s earliest adopters will be able to benefit from the full $7,500 government discount. Once that phase ends, the Subaru Solterra — which is identical to the bZ4X in all the ways that matter — will become a much better deal. It’ll stay that way for years to come, because Subaru has sold probably like 1,000 PHEVs ever, thanks to the Crosstrek Hybrid that I wasn’t even aware existed until minutes ago.

2nd Gear: Somebody Tell GM A Reservation Is Not A Sale

Right now you can reserve a Silverado EV with a deposit of just $100. You can also cancel that reservation for any reason, between now and when you’re required to select your dealer and confirm order details. That’s because a reservation is not the same thing as a sale; it doesn’t even guarantee a sale.

Still, GM CEO Mary Barra couldn’t help herself speaking to Bloomberg after the electric pickup’s unveiling earlier this week at CES, and said the dreaded “s” word anyway:

We’re going to bring them to market as quickly as we can. We anticipate that we’ll start with the work truck variant and that will be available in spring of next year, and then in the fall we’ll have the RST and we’re going to work to get them to customers as quickly as we can. And the reception, I have to tell you David [Westin], has been great. The first edition of the RST sold out in 12 minutes and reservations are still coming in.

Look, I’m not saying there isn’t lots of enthusiasm for the Silverado EV and that there aren’t people lining up to buy Chevy’s first batch. The RST First Edition Barra mentions costs $107,000, by the way — more than twice as much as the $40K work truck base model. For every reservation that falls through, another customer will probably step up. But that doesn’t mean much at the end of the day, because GM hasn’t even stated how many RST First Editions it’s scheduled to build.

The truck’s going to do fine. We don’t need to overstate that hours after the reveal by pretending $100 deposits are equivalent to sales.

3rd Gear: Heads Are Rolling At Aston Martin

It’s been a whirlwind week at England’s winged-but-not-hyphenated automaker. First it lost its Formula 1 team principal Otmar Szafnauer after a surprisingly poor year for the crew that I’m sure wasn’t his squarely his fault, but as ever, someone had to be blamed. Now it could lose its CEO too, after not even two years at the company. From our friends at Automotive News:

Aston Martin is seeking a replacement for CEO Tobias Moers because of the automaker’s continuing financial woes, a report said.

Moers, a former head of Mercedes-AMG performance division, has held the role for less than two years.

A potential candidate for the CEO job has been approached, according to Autocar motoring magazine, which cited unnamed sources.

Aston Martin told Automotive News Europe it “did not comment on speculation.”

This comes after the carmaker reported a boost in sales that nevertheless didn’t reel the profits it expected. Some of that has to do with a slump in Valkyrie deliveries; it moved just 10 in the last quarter of 2021. Individual Valkyrie sales kind of have a big effect on the company, since each one costs $3.3 million.

4th Gear: It’s Not Just EVs — Hybrid Sales Are Soaring

With all the attention on battery-electric vehicles, it’s easy to overlook the fact that people are buying more hybrids than they used to, too. Per Reuters:

U.S. sales of hybrid vehicle sales jumped 76% to 801,550 vehicles last year, accounting for 5% of U.S. light vehicle sales, according to data from analytics firm Wards Intelligence.

Sales of EVs also jumped 83% to 434,879, but represented a meager 3% of the market.

Toyota Motor Corp posted record hybrid car sales for the U.S. market, helping the Japanese automaker overtake General Motors Co as the top-selling U.S. automaker.

Honda was second behind Toyota in hybrid sales, citing a 67 percent boost over 2020 numbers. Like Toyota, it doesn’t offer a pure battery EV yet, and won’t until the Ultium-based Prologue debuts. But you can expect hybrids to take progressively larger slices of the overall sales pie in the coming years, as manufacturers electrify more of their ranges to meet ever-tightening global fuel economy restrictions.

5th Gear: Production ID.Buzz Gets Reveal Date

Twitter user Herbert Diess took to his favorite app yesterday to tease a GIF of Volkswagen’s upcoming retro-inspired electric van, the ID.Buzz. The company will supposedly unveil the production version later this year. Somehow, despite posting less than five words, Diess managed to confuse everyone.

To those of us immediately west of the Atlantic, “3/9” means “March 9.” But Volkswagen’s CEO comes from a place where they serve a delicacy of raw minced pork and style it in a variety of amusing ways, like hedgehogs and Matt Damon. Over there and indeed in much of the world, “3/9” is read as “September 3.” Nobody knew which the CEO was referring to, prompting this:

Glad that’s settled. Look forward to a first look at the final ID.Buzz in two months.

Reverse: A Different Kind Of Car Company Is Born

Saturn was officially founded on this very day in 1985, 37 whole years ago. It’d be a few more years until GM would start pumping out the plum-bodies, plastic-bumpered wedges the brand was known for — though of course true Jalops know the first Saturns actually hit showrooms in the late ’70s.

Neutral: Whatcha Listening To?

Every now and then we flirt with a series here on Jalopnik called Traffic Jams. The thing is, y’all don’t click on those, so we kind of gave up doing them. But I still like to talk about music, so I invite you to share your current musical interest in the comments.

Forza Horizon 5 recently turned me onto this shoegazey noise rock band out of Mexico City called El Shirota. They’re a little Sonic Youth, a little Swervedriver, and generally pretty phenomenal if you vibe with any of the ’90s bands in that scene, whatever you call it. The opening riff to their song “La Ciudad” has been ringing in my head for weeks.

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