Toyota launches first battery electric car

Toyota Motor Corp will begin rolling out its first mass-produced battery electric car in Japan on Thursday, a plan the carmaker claims would alleviate driver concerns about battery life and resale value but which has experts scratching their heads.

According to industry figures, gasoline-electric hybrid models remain considerably more popular in Toyota’s home market than electric vehicles (EVs), which accounted for only 1% of passenger cars sold in Japan last year. Nonetheless, the industry is rapidly expanding, and international manufacturers such as Tesla Inc are making obvious advances on city streets such as Tokyo.

Toyota will lease the bZ4X sport utility vehicles (SUV) for the equivalent of $39,000 for the first four years, including insurance, service fees, and a battery guarantee. There will be an extra cost if you cancel within the first 48 months.

While EV adoption has been slow in Japan, this is expected to improve, and Toyota might lose market share by focusing on a lease strategy rather than a purchase model, according to CLSA analyst Christopher Richter.

“Anything you do that makes it more difficult to buy is probably not a good thing,” he remarked.

“I’m not a big fan of this method. It does indicate that Toyota is taking the domestic market for granted.”

Toyota said in December that it will invest 8 trillion yen ($62 billion) by 2030 to electrify its vehicles.

Toyota plans to lease 5,000 of the SUVs this fiscal year, almost the same number of electric vehicles that experts estimate Tesla sold in Japan last year.

The bZ4X will be available in other regions later this year, and pre-orders have already begun in a few European nations.

According to a Toyota representative, the company has not determined when it would begin selling the automobiles in Japan.

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