Hoping to replicate the sales success of the RAV4 Hybrid, Toyota will sell the next-generation Sienna minivan and Venza midsize crossover as hybrids only.
More power, a better overall driving experience and lower emissions will be selling points, said Stephen Beatty, vice-president and corporate secretary of Toyota Canada.
“You really saw us plant our flag on the subject with the RAV4, when we were able to bring the incremental cost of a hybrid down to something that’s affordable.”
Pricing of most RAV4 Hybrid grades is within $2,000 of the internal-combustion equivalents. The RAV4 Hybrid has since become Toyota’s best-selling vehicle with an alternative powertrain, comprising 22 per cent of the crossover’s sales in 2019, according to the automaker.
The company will not offer a nonhybrid minivan because other Toyota vehicles can fill that role, said Beatty.
For the Sienna, owners seek the versatility of a minivan as well as fuel economy “wherever they can possibly pick that up ... I think the market is there,” he said
The hybrid Sienna will lower fuel consumption by 40 per cent over its predecessor, Toyota said.
A hybrid powertrain puts the Sienna, currently the only minivan to offer all-wheel drive, in closer competition with the Chrysler Pacifica, which offers internal-combustion and plug-in hybrid variants. It will also be available with all-wheel drive for the 2021 model year (gasoline model only).
While FCA Canada declined to offer sales figures for the Pacifica plug-in hybrid, Tim Kuniskis, FCA North America’s head of passenger cars for the Dodge, SRT, Chrysler and Fiat brands, said in an email that the vehicle plays a key role for Chrysler in markets such as California with strict electric-vehicle sales mandates and healthy incentive programs.
Robert Karwel, senior manager of J.D. Power’s automotive practice in Canada, thinks markets exist for both brands because the two companies are chasing slightly different customers.
“FCA is the market leader in compact vans and has a great lineage of people movers, so they are likely going after a more select buyer with more advanced PHEV technology in the Pacifica because they have a lower-priced line available beneath it,” Karwel said.
“That means the customer profile changes: fewer young families under 35 years of age, but plenty more in the 35-to-50 age range, who still have children, but they will be a bit older. There is higher income earning, and the van represents not only utility, but the customer wants some extra ‘premiumness’ and comfort with it.” Karwel said that with a more conventional hybrid setup, Toyota is targeting a slightly different consumer, because it will likely offer “a smaller pricing gap versus standard vans” than the Pacifica does. “That means different buyers, but perhaps a large pool of buyers to step up as well, a buyer that wants an alternative powertrain but something in a more affordable package.”
Toyota said it will announce Sienna pricing closer to launch “later this year.” The base price of the current front-wheel-drive Sienna is $37,721, including destination fees, and the Pacifica’s base price is $39,790 with destination.
Karwel said that while the client base for the Pacifica Hybrid — priced at $55,090 including destination fees and without any government rebates — might be too small to be considered sustainable for the long term, this is not an unusual scenario when new technologies are introduced.
“They are low adoption at first because of cost. Over time, costs go down, so the business case changes and light emerges at the end of the tunnel.”