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New York show: Toyota powers up with hybrid RAV4

Fuel for thought: Toyota will unwrap a hybrid version of its RAV4 next week, but don't expect to see it in Australian showrooms anytime soon.

Toyota dumps RAV4 EV and replaces it with a hybrid but it's unlikely for Australia

Toyota logo27 Mar 2015

By NEIL DOWLING

TOYOTA this week teased images of a hybrid version of the popular RAV4, signifying that the company will soon launch its second hybrid SUV in the United States.

It comes less than a year after Toyota dumped plans to make an electric version of the RAV4 with electric-vehicle specialist and project partner Tesla.

Toyota sells a hybrid version of the Kluger in the US, making the RAV4 version the second in the expanding segment, but the RAV4 Hybrid is not on the shopping list for the car-maker's local arm.

Toyota Australia product public relations manager Stephen Coughlan said the company has no plans at this stage to put its hand up for the variant.

“We have two petrol and one diesel RAV4 models and they are very well received and meeting customers requirements,” he said.

“We are still a strong hybrid market but we don’t have the volumes of countries like the US.” Australia will also miss out on the Highlander (Kluger in Australia) Hybrid that is made in the US for the North American market.

“Again, the Highlander has strong demand and large volumes in the US that can’t be achieved here,” he said.

The teaser picture of the hybrid RAV4 comes less than a week before the New York motor show where the new model is expected to be publicly unveiled.

But the RAV4 is entering a period where slipping oil prices are weaning buyers off hybrid cars.

US sales of hybrids fell 8.8 per cent in 2014 to 452,152 vehicles according to research firm Baum and Associates and reported by Automotive News. Prius sales fell 15 per cent and Camry Hybrid dropped by 11 per cent.

But the research firm said the RAV4 hybrid would hold up because the small-SUV segment – the sector in which the RAV4 is classed in the US – is very popular.

In the US last month, RAV4 sales jumped 33 per cent to 21,943 units, the vehicle’s best ever February.

In 2014, American RAV4 sales increased by 23 per cent to 267,698 units. By comparison, the same period in Australia recorded 18,160 sales, a rise over 2013 of 6.9 per cent.

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