It took just four years for Toyota to double sales of the RAV4. That’s a phenomenal achievement and one the Japanese carmaker would love to maintain. Realistically, that rate of growth won’t be sustained, but with the reveal of the all-new 2019 Toyota RAV4 in New York last week, plans to increase volume were brought to light by Bill Fay, Senior Vice President, Automotive Operations. “The RAV4 has become our sales leader, a very important vehicle for us,” Fay said.
“Once we get this vehicle in dealer’s lots and on the road, we’ll then have a chance to start to grow that 407,000 from last year into a higher number, but we’re not going to be able to double that. Creating three distinct flavors of the RAV4 is part of the plan to increase volume,” Fay continued. “We’re starting to reach a good level of penetration, we’ve tried to broaden this fifth generation out a bit, we’ve added more models like the XSE Hybrid—that’s all new. The Adventure package adds a rugged, masculine appeal. So we’re trying to broaden the RAV4 lineup to have a bigger appeal, which should help us, depending on what the segment does, as it continues to grow, add some more volume there.”
Viewing the three models together, it’s clear from my mind at least the new XSE Hybrid has been positioned as the most premium of the trio. It looks the best, inside and out, and boasts the best performance. “The hybrid is at 10-12% of the mix now, give or take 40,000 RAV hybrids. We’re going to push that to probably 20% of the mix,” Fay claimed. When discussing the hybrid system with RAV4 chief engineer Yoshikazu Saeki later in the day, a telling fact was leaked that—once officially confirmed— will attract plenty of interest in the RAV4 Hybrid. “The first reason for choosing this specific setup was to gain the longest driving distance. In between, if you need to extend the range you can fill up with gasoline quite easily,” Saeki said.
“RAV4 customers are normally quite busy in their everyday lives. So the main focus was how easily and quickly could they refill their cars. So if they could refill and run another 600 miles, that was a really important factor. Fueling up then doesn’t become a burden,” as opposed to say, with an EV. “That’s why we chose the hybrid system for the main powertrain. With one fill up, 600 miles. Gasoline and hybrid have same fuel tank capacity. The hybrid system is more about how efficient you can run your life around the car, not how efficient the system is in itself. It’s not the pursuit of the fuel economy itself, it’s how the hybrid system can enhance the efficiency of your life.”
A Toyota spokesperson was quick to add the range is “not yet confirmed, these are preliminary figures,” but the cat is out of the bag. The RAV4 Hybrid will have a range of 600 miles, or thereabouts, on a single fill up. Knowing that, doubling sales of the hybrid variant won’t be a challenge at all.