Aug 08

Who Will Dominate the Future Hybrid Market, GM or Toyota?

 

toyota_gm.jpg

Right now, Toyota dominates the world hybrid car marketplace. Let’s look at the numbers. Toyota sold 4.72 million vehicles in the first half of 2007. 1.33 million of those were sold in the U.S. Out of that U.S. sales group, 146,536, or a full 11% were hybrid cars. Specifically in June, they sold 46,630 Camrys and 17,756 Priuses. That Prius number is up 75% from June 06, and considering that the Camry is the best selling passenger car in America, the fact that Toyota is selling one Prius for every 2.6 Camrys is mighty impressive and confirms a dramatic hybrid shift among U.S. consumers.

Just released July 2007 data indicate that hybrid sales of all makes is up 12% from July 2006. In this last month 16,062 Priuses were sold out of a total of 28,585 hybrids (56%), and hybrids accounted for 2.2% of overall vehicle sales.

General Motors (GM) for it’s part delivered 320,935 vehicles in July 2007, in that group 201,069 were trucks (63%). For first half 2007 they delivered 4.67 million units, second place to Toyota, but 2.25 million of those vehicles were sold in the U.S., which is almost double Toyota’s sales there. It is interesting to note that the top 3 selling vehicles in the U.S. are actually pick-up trucks (4th is the Camry), which explains GM’s U.S. sales advantage overall. That’s’ right folks, the U.S. makes and drives gas-guzzling trucks

Now we need to consider where things are heading. With gas prices continuing to rise, in fact oil within the past two weeks hitting an all time high of 78$ per barrel, and with climate change concerns high on the scale of public awareness, we are very likely at the mere foot of an extremely steep climb of hybrid vehicle adoption.

GM presently manufactures two hybrid cars, the Saturn VUE and Aura, and are releasing three more this year, the Chevy Malibu and Tahoe, and the GMC Yukon. Next year they will release three more hybrids; Cadillac Escalade, Chevy Silverado, and GMC Sierra. Those last two are pick-up trucks. GM could not provide me with current sales numbers of hybrids, claiming they are not “broken out” from their parent lines, but are likely quite small right now. Overall (both standard and hybrid) 52,000VUEs and 33,000 Auras were sold in the first half of 2007 in the U.S. This total number, is less than the total number of Priuses that were sold.

It is quite clear from these facts that GM must move to electrification in order to not only thrive in the future, but survive.

The announcement of the Volt was clearly a shock to the system (pun intended), and suddenly Toyota has been moved from the dominant position to the come from behind spot. The current Prius does not hold a candle to the Volt in terms of fuel efficiency, sexiness-factor, technology, or appearance. The fact that so many Priuses are sold attests to the fact that it is fuel efficiency that people want, so much so that they will sacrifice looks.

Now Toyota has put on public display their weak hand. The so-called “new” plug-in Prius with its lame name “Plug-in HV” is nothing more than an old Prius, with a heavy pile of old-fashioned NiMH batteries in the trunk, that can only manage 8 miles to a charge. This car pales dimly in comparison to the Volt’s powerful electric engine, lightweight and powerful lithium-ion batteries, 40 mile electric driving range, and impressive 600-700 mile combustion assisted range.

It is very interesting that Toyota has officially delayed it’s adoption of Lithium-ion technology. Here is where GM has appeared to pull another brilliant move. They solicited bids from 13 lithium-battery suppliers who had the confidence that they could supply GM Volt battery packs on a mass-production level. From that group the two most promising teams were selected and given development contracts. To me that means money and likely a non-compete agreement. At that point, Toyota was bootstrapped. They lost access to the best and brightest makers of Li-ion. Right now we are are in the midst of a very aggressive engineering phase, and will see some working packs by year end, for the Volt, not the Toyota.

The EV1 was the right idea at the wrong time. The Volt is a life-or-death decision for GM. To my thinking there is no doubt that GM will and must make it happen. Furthermore GM is now in the right position to turn the whole market around and beat Toyota at it’s own game. Toyota might try to beat GM to market with a plug-in car, but in a battle of Volt versus Prius HV, the Volt will win hands down. So let’s roll GM..you won round one and two, now it’s time for the knockout.

This entry was posted on Wednesday, August 8th, 2007 at 11:47 am and is filed under Competitors, Hybrid, PHEV. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

COMMENTS: 18


  1. 1
    OptimisticMF

     

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    Aug 8th, 2007 (12:34 pm)

    I agree that GM made a good move by securing the “best and the brightest” in Lithium Ion development/manufacture, but this alone will not ensure market dominance. There are two other factors I’m concerned about.

    1. Image – Just reading the comments on this site (which should have a GM bias) leads me to believe that everyone “knows” that Toyota makes better cars and specifically, better hybrids. GM will need to continue to improve their image when it comes to build quality and service.

    2. Technology – Don’t think that hybrid technology will stop with Lithium Ion development. I am not a scientist, but developments in Lithium Sulfur and advanced capacitor technology look promising.

    http://peswiki.com/index.php/Directory:Lithium_Sulphur_Batteries

    http://money.cnn.com/2006/09/15/technology/disruptors_eestor.biz2/index.htm

    Look for a smart, new company to look at “leapfrogging” GM by developing a vehicle based on one of these (or other) technologies.

    I agree that this looks like the dawn of a new era in an industry that impacts the daily lives of hundreds of millions of people around the globe. Who’s to say that the next Henry Ford isn’t designing a capacitor-based electric car in China without all of GMs, or even Toyota’s baggage?

    We still need a lot of things to go right for this product to be immediately successful. I don’t know about any of you, but I am pulling hard for nothing less than a paradigm-shifting, blockbuster success for this vehicle!!!


  2. 2
    bean12

     

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    Aug 8th, 2007 (1:26 pm)

    This article seems very biased towards GM. To date all GM has done is produce a concept car and solicited some bids. Although there are lots of rumors and statements, GM has not officially announced when or even if the Volt will enter production. I will be pleasantly amazed if GM does deliver the Volt by 2010, but based on the history of GM on these things I am not holding my breath waiting.

    If you look at what each company HAS accomplished Toyota and Honda are the undisputed leader in improving gas efficiency in all of its cars (hybrids and regular). I don’t dispute that GM appears to have turned over a new leaf – but I will only believe it when I see it.

    On another note, yes the Volt as proposed would blow away a plug in prius, but we still do not know what if any price differencial will exist. Would the Volt be worth 10k or 20k more? We will just have to wait and see.


  3. 3
    C Miles

     

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    Aug 8th, 2007 (3:32 pm)

    They crushed my hopes with the EV-1

    Taxpayer dollars squandered (PNGV)

    Improved 4 seat diesel PHEV EV -1 hidden.

    I hope GM builds this, because I am rapidly losing faith in it’s promises.

    re:Crushing electrics rather than de-power them and send them to schools and museums everywhere….

    GM must have the WORST PR department on the Planet.


  4. 4
    Matt986

     

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    Aug 8th, 2007 (3:44 pm)

    I think Honda has been VERY quiet on the subject of PHEVs. Frankly, I think Honda’s hybrid implementation was the poorest. I say that, and I actually owned an Insight for a year. It got GREAT gas mileage, but most of that was due to factors other than the electric assist – it was light and aerodynamic, and the engine utilized the Atkinson cycle to reduce fuel consumption.

    When driving it, I felt that 2-3x more power from the electric motor, and higher energy storage in the battery pack would have been much better.

    I ended up trading it in because I live SO close to work, the poor car couldn’t stretch it’s legs and recharge.

    It will be interesting to see what happens over the next few years, that’s for sure!


  5. 5
    Brian

     

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    Aug 8th, 2007 (5:05 pm)

    Matt986:

    I might be wrong, but I’m pretty sure the Prius uses the Atkinson cycle as well.

    I’m sure the Volt will use it too, or some other improvement to save fuel in the ICE.

    Actually, if anyone is interested in alternative ICE methods, do a google search for “Crower six stroke engine”.


  6. 6
    Brian

     

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    Aug 8th, 2007 (5:08 pm)

    C Miles:

    Several EV1s still exist today at universities mostly. I’m sure they will find their way to museums eventually.

    I’m tired of hearing people’s uninformed complaints about GM and the EV1. Try to get your information from somewhere other than an EXTREMELY biased “documentary”.


  7. 7
    Matt986

     

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    Aug 8th, 2007 (5:47 pm)

    Brian,

    The Volt’s generator wouldn’t be able to use the Atkinson Cycle (or HCCI, or variable valve timing….) because it runs under load constantly.

    The Insight and Prius could use it, because there are times (cruising at highway speeds) where very little power is needed.

    Now, the 6 stroke engine design would be great. The engine could be made smaller, and yet get more power for the amount of fuel used. Although, there arise some problems when you squirt water in a cylinder of an ICE – washing away the lubricating oil and corrosion become serious issues. It will be interesting to see if someone can make it work well in a production-capable engine. With electronic valve trains and things like direct injection, I think it would technically be possible.


  8. 8
    C Miles

     

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    Aug 8th, 2007 (6:57 pm)

    Actually, Brian,

    I am very well informed, and I do hope that GM succeeds. I have many autoworker family members (Newark, Delaware plant) that are losing their jobs based on management mis-steps(granted that was Chrysler)

    I am no troll.

    I am just… guarded when it comes to Detroit’s promises.

    Re: EV-1

    To clarify,

    I did see the movie, but don’t remember them mentioning the 4 passenger EV-1 PHEV that was never brought to market nor did they mention the 90′s PNGV, or Freedom car subsides to GM.

    No the Precept, which was also subsidized by taxpayers.

    Even Rick Waggoner mentioned in an interview that crushing the Ev- 1 was a mistake.

    All I was saying, is that a taxpayer who’d helped subsidize the EV-1, the Precept, and many other wonderful GM efforts that never made it to market, you can’t blame me for being skeptical.

    I’ve been in email conversations with high ranking members of the ORIGINAL EV-1 tech team that mentioned a cash burn of 1 million per day on the EV-1 Program.

    Smoggy Southern California deserved better from a US taxpayer subsidized program.

    Certainly our climate deserved better.

    (Well, at least [former GM CEO] Bob Stempel at Ovonic made a little money.)

    PS- the Smithsonian EV1 exhibit was replaced by a VW- A Robotic Toureg SUV. The EV1 is in storage in Maryland.

    And, there are only a FEW and I mean a FEW Ev-1′s scattered around the country.

    ALL THAT BEING SAID.

    Should the Volt actually come out, I’ll be the first in line. I believe in the idea of the Volt.

    However, here is a GM PR video viewpoint of the EV-1 from early in the program which seems a lot like what we’re hearing today.

    link:

    http://tinyurl.com/2xv84p

    (link to google video)


  9. 9
    kent beuchert

     

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    Aug 8th, 2007 (7:02 pm)

    With the advent of plug-ins in a class segment, it’s hard to understand why anyone would waste money on a plain hybrid.
    If I were GM, I’d be looking to expand e-flex into a variety of platforms.


  10. 10
    Drake

     

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    Aug 8th, 2007 (9:35 pm)

    “The Volt is a life-or-death decision for GM.” I could not agree more. GM is playing some SERIOUS catchup now both politically and technologically. Sure they had the EV1, which I’m sure taught them a lot about making an electric vehicle, but Toyota has had hybrids on the road for a decade now. The Volt will be version 1.1 for GM.

    Toyota is playing it safe though. They are holding on to their dual-train hybrids and NiMH batteries. Also, Toyota has not made a sexy car in their existence.

    GM is finally waking up from their SUV-induced sleep.

    OptimisticMF – yeah on a sidenote, on thing I love about globalization is that there are MILLIONS of more minds now available to work on problems like replacing the ICE engine. If a poor Chinaman makes the next great car I will buy it.

    bean12 – If the Volt is all just a PR thing then GM is officially dead. Oil spikes are coming, big time, and if GM sits on their hands and does not leap for the new technology, they are doomed. Either way, I don’t care. It is their decision.

    CMiles – you can rest assured (and so can I) that our tax dollars that were spent on the EV1 are being used to their fullest now (or atleast the know-how that it allowed). It was not a waste, infact it may have been the best thing that the government could have done to help the American auto industry survive. Without the EV1 project, GM would have really been starting from square one.


  11. 11
    green

     

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    Aug 9th, 2007 (6:29 am)

    I think they will take NanoSafe battery

    Altairnano (alti) have a great battery and

    SAFE!!!!!


  12. 12
    Katie

     

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    Aug 9th, 2007 (10:02 am)

    Didn’t Toyota come from behind in market share in the 1970′s and 1980′s to put American car manufacturers where they are now? It just seems like you are underestimating the drive and determination of Toyota to be the world’s leading car manufacturer; where there is a will, there is a way. To be totally cliché, history (especially market history) does have a habit of repeating itself. With new talent and new technology being added to the market daily, so I would not say Toyota is even close to being down for the count.


  13. 13
    storm connors

     

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    Aug 9th, 2007 (10:13 pm)

    Thank you, C Miles,for the May 1990 ad. They could change “Impact” to “Volt” and use the ads again- except the 100 mile range has been reduced to 40. 16 years of steady progress. GM could have sold all the EV1s they could produce, but they chose not to produce them.
    To state that the EV1 was created before the world was ready for it is a disingenuous cop out. Every time I hear one of the GM spokepersons say that the car production is dependent on the battery development I cringe. I can almost hear the press conference in 2010 when they are looking forward to building the car “as soon as the batteries are available.” 10 mile battery range would beat the Prius. Build it now.


  14. 14
    C Miles

     

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    Aug 9th, 2007 (10:33 pm)

    Amen, Storm Conners.

    Bob Lutz did announce today thet they were going with A123 batteries for delivery this fall- a demo care ready by spring ’08.

    Lets hope that Bob Lutz is a man of his word.

    I think the folks that would think I was Trolling don’t quite get that I WANT this car to happen.

    But you know what they say, fool us twice, shame on U.S.

    I think the name IMPACT was a kinda funny choice. Carson had a lot of fun with the name. (and he was a Corvette owner)

    The Guys at RENCen have to build a great car, market it properly and provide follow through. Given that Buick just tied Lexus in J.D. Power quality… I have hope this time around.

    OH, and the thin tech guy in the Video Standing in front of the Impact? He took his Controller know how and technology to Tesla

    Tesla Sports Coupe : 250-300 Mile Range. Thousands of Lithium Batteries 0-60 in 4.

    Next up; their high end consumer car… Codenamed “White Star.”


  15. 15
    Don

     

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    Aug 23rd, 2007 (12:18 am)

    I’ve asked this in another thread as well but this may be a better venue … how does the advent of better diesel – low pollution, quiet, high power, and amazing mpg – being released over the next two years, influence the chance for success for this vehicle?

    Honda is basically moving to diesel as their high mpg, low carbon play. They’ll still make the hybrid Civic but the hybrid Accord is gone and by 2009 will be a diesel Accord.

    I personally think that EV via a PHEV transition phase is the way to go, but if you add in biodiesel into the mix, diesel as an alternative also seems very attractive.

    My hope is that GM learns from Toyota’s playbook and is willing to even take a loss for a season or two to get their sales volumes up to a cost effective point. Despite our enthusiasm and willingness to pre-order without a test drive or review in hand, price and lifetime cost of ownership for a similiarly performing ICE car will be critical factors for most.

    BTW re Tesla (and Phoenix too) … great vehicles but that range and power comes at a pretty penny … 100K for the roadster and @50K for the Phoenix sport ute (which is at a substantial loss if it wasn’t for California’s ample ZEV credits) “White Star” also won’t be cheap and until rapid recharge is easily doable and widsely available on the road, few of the mainstream will find it attractive.


  16. 16
    stormc

     

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    Aug 25th, 2007 (10:42 pm)

    “The EV1 was the right idea at the wrong time” still bugs me. If GM had just run with it, they’d be world leaders instead of nearing bankrupcy.

    Don, look for the multifuel capability of the diesel to play heavily in the future. If the Volt had a diesel, it could run on cooking oil or biodiesel or whatever. This is probably the ideal for transportation. There isn’t enough capacity to just run on the biodiesel. 15% biodiesel, 85% electric is doable.

    Once the Volt becomes popular, the next step will be pure EV. The Volt is an EV with training wheels.

    If you haven’t seen it, this is a nice story http://portev.org/commentary/living_in_the_past.htm


  17. 17
    mcharles

     

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    Jan 5th, 2008 (11:35 pm)

    First of all, GM’s concept car is about as real as my Play-Doh model of a car that runs on pee and produces 500 horsepower. I, too, can make claims all day long and never back them up.

    Secondly, GM has never even produced a full hybrid car for production. All the GM hybrids are partial–they can’t run on electricity alone like the Prius has done since the first generation.

    GM is a marketing company first, a car company second. They rely on uneducated consumers to ooh and ahh over their promises and then hope that they’ll forget once GM doesn’t deliver and starts on their next set of promises.

    I’m amazed that anyone would even compare a Prius that has been out for years to a vaporware Volt. Watch as time moves on and GM can’t produce live up to their hype. I can’t wait to laugh at the excuses…


  18. 18
    THOM

     

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    Dec 15th, 2008 (8:30 am)

    There is probably a reason why toyota doesnt use li-ion batteries.

    Im sure the tested all option and chose what they felt was best.

    The only thing GM has been able to do is to drive a so called volt / cruse 1.5 miles to the whitehouse at 20MPH (pretty much a pr stunt)