Are We At The Tipping Point?
The Toyota Prius is seen as one of the first and certainly at present the most successful hybrid vehicle. It is a well known fact that Toyota is expecting its hybrid family of vehicles to challenge for supremacy in diesel-loving, tree-hugging Europe. The fact that 65% of Toyotas sold in Holland are hybrids may well support this notion. However, across Europe, hybrid sales for Toyota are pegged at approximately 13% of Toyota sales for last year although they are targeting 27% in the next couple of years.
Since the 1990s, many of the hybrid offerings have been less than appealing and, in reality, they have not captured the popular imagination: many have suffered from compromised performance, ugly duckling look, inflated pricing and general uncertainty about battery life. Europe in particular is now believed to have reached a tipping point where hybrid cars may become the first choice for most consumers, or at least Didier Leroy, the President of Toyota Europe, hopes so when he stated that Toyota was finding its “hybrid expertise to be a key differentiator “ from some of their competitors. It is expected that off the back of the hybrid revolution, Toyota Europe will show a profit for the first time since 2007.
Historically, Europe’s fussy car owners were uncertain about the technology and the battery life. When this was coupled with the increased cost of a hybrid, the European market for eco-cars was relatively small. There is also a counter argument by some eco-warriors that hybrids are just encouraging the elongated use of hydrocarbons. However, Karl Schlicht, Executive VP for Sales at Toyota Europe, points out that as Europe tightens its emission rules over the next few decades, diesels will become less attractive to consumers.
So, when a young 23-year-old engineer unveiled his revolutionary machine at the 1900 Paris Exposition, no one had an idea that this new motor vehicle that ran on both electricity and petroleum utilising two separate engines, in effect, the first hybrid, would revolutionise an entire planet. The name of that engineer was Ferdinand Porsche, father of the legendary Volkswagen Beetle and, of course, 911 Carrera.