I’m in the market for a hybrid gasoline-electric minivan, but there are none on the North American market. (They do sell them in Japan.) Toyota and Honda (and possibly Dodge/Chrysler with its new “two-mode” hybrid system) could be manufacturing them for the American market if they had the inclination, but apparently they don’t. Toyota has shown the most interest over the years.
In 2003 Forbes expected to see a hybrid Toyota Sienna in 2004. In 2004 USA Today predicted a hybrid Sienna for 2005. In 2005 the Capital Times (of Madison, Wisconsin) reported that a hybrid Sienna was due for 2006. When I asked some Toyota guys at an auto show in January, they thought I wouldn’t be able to buy a hybrid Sienna until August 2008.
Today’s (or, it seems, actually tomorrow’s) Wall Street Journal says Tokuichi Uranishi (Toyota’s head of global sales,
though they misspell his name since corrected) “strongly suggested he favors offering a hybrid minivan in the U.S. market” but that “no decisions have been made about that.” Hmm, I guess I won’t be able to buy a hybrid Sienna in August after all.
Today’s Los Angeles Times also quotes Uranishi: “I think we should have a minivan hybrid in the U.S.” Both papers hint that Toyota thinks hybrid-only models (such as Prius) will sell better than hybrid versions of existing cars (such as hybrid Camry or hybrid Highlander). The presumption is that buyers want a vehicle with a distinctive look so they can easily show off their green cred.
Honda has evidently come to the same conclusion, so perhaps it’s true, but personally I don’t care about green cred. And I’d rather buy a hybrid Sienna (or Odyssey, or Caravan) sooner rather than a distinctive-looking hybrid-only minivan later.