As many automotive giants go all in on electric cars, Toyota is taking a more measured approach to the future of motoring.
Toyota Chairman Akio Toyoda recently stated that he doesn’t expect full battery electric vehicles (BEVs) to reach a market share of more than 30% no matter how much progress they make.
Although the company is hedging its bets on hydrogen innovations and the further development of hybrids, it is still investing heavily in full electric vehicles with the aim of producing 3.5 million of them annually by 2030.
Toyota’s cautious approach to BEVs is mirrored in South Africa, which has also been slow to electrify due to myriad factors such as load shedding and high tax rates for battery vehicles.
But Toyota South Africa (TSAM) will be entering the electric vehicle market from 2025, its Senior Vice President of Sales and Marketing, Leon Theron, announced at the recent State of the Motor Industry (SOMI) event held at Kyalami.
Theron said the company was currently working on getting its dealers equipped to support the sale of BEVs.
Two models are currently under consideration: the Toyota bZ4X and Lexus RC, and we’re likely to receive updated versions of the models currently on sale overseas.
Both vehicles are crafted around Toyota’s dedicated BEV platform called eTNGA, which integrates the battery unit into the chassis to provide a rigid and space efficient structure with a low centre of gravity.
We don’t know what model variants of the bZ4X will be offered locally but overseas the crossover vehicle is offered in front-wheel drive and all-wheel drive guises, with the former producing 150kW and 265Nm and the latter offering 160kW and 337Nm.
The 71.4 kWh lithium-ion battery allows for a driving range of up to 516km in the front-driven model, and 470km in the more powerful AWD.
We drove the bZ4X in Copenhagen back in 2022 - read our impressions here.
The Lexus RZ 450e, though sharing its basic eTNGA architecture with the aforementioned Toyota, is a somewhat more upmarket proposition.
Sized between the current Lexus NX and RX crossover models, the striking new BEV has a twin motor drivetrain as standard, with combined outputs of 230kW and 434Nm allowing for a 0-100km/h time of 5.3 seconds.
Equipped with the same battery pack as the bZ4X, the RZ claims a WLTP range of up to 435km.
Lexus also plans to eventually offer it with a very interesting ‘steer-by-wire’ yoke steering wheel, which we got to sample in France last year (read more here) but it’s unlikely to be available in the initial batch of South African vehicles given that it’s still in the prototype phase with a view to launching in select markets from 2025.
While the Toyota bZ4X and Lexus RZ will spearhead Toyota’s introduction of electric vehicles in South Africa, that range is likely to expand later in the decade, especially since globally Toyota plans to offer electrified versions of every single vehicle it sells.
There’s even a battery-powered Toyota Hilux under consideration for certain markets such as Thailand.
However the local division (TSAM) will continue to concentrate heavily on hybrid vehicles, which have proven highly successful since the launch of the Corolla Cross hybrid in late 2022.
In 2023 TSAM commanded a 53% share of the New Energy Vehicle (NEV) market in South Africa, with the Corolla Cross making up 55% of these sales. 42.5% of all Lexus sales fall into this category.