Toyota’s pure electric dilemma and bZ4X’s embarrassing situation stem from Akio Toyoda

The Toyota Prius, the second-generation Prius to be precise, always had a big place in my childhood.

Not only because this car has spent a lot of good time with my family and me for a period of time, but also because of some "little future shocks" that this car has brought to me.

The "HYBRID SYNERGY DRIVE" nameplate on the rear of the Prius means that this is a hybrid model—in fact, the second-generation Prius is Toyota's first hybrid model sold in China.

On the not-so-small central control screen on the Prius, Toyota chose to occupy the entire screen to show you the operation of the engine, battery, and generator in real time, from which you can see and understand the transfer, storage, and distribution of energy. .

These operations, which are so normal today, belonged to the category of "seeing the world" for me and many consumers at the time. Even many predators in Silicon Valley flaunt their status as environmentalists by owning a Prius.

In the following years, Toyota has indeed taken the top spot in HEV hybrids, and it is the same across the world.

Probably very few people will be really interested in a car that is a hybrid of gasoline and electricity, has nothing to do with cool appearance, and may not be fun to drive.

But at the time, it was a spaceship in my eyes .

But when the electric age is approaching, if a child regards a car like the Toyota bZ4X as his own spaceship, I might persuade him to wake up as soon as possible and jump off the thief ship.

A tram that can't do "electricity" well

How embarrassing is the bZ series?

bZ4X, this is a car with a pre-sale starting price of 220,000, which was later delayed, lowered the pre-sale starting price to 190,000, and dropped 60,000 in less than half a year.

A certain Toyota dealer even advertised "Buy bZ4X and get Vios for free". Although only two units were sent out and the event was declared over, the sales pressure of bZ4X can be imagined.

In a sense, like the Prius, the bZ4X is a first of its kind.

Of course, there may be many reasons for a car not being accepted by the market. For example, the Prius back then was sold very limited in China because of its high price, but this does not prevent it from being the leader of Toyota's hybrid dynasty.

But the problem with bZ4X is not the pricing at all, but the product.

As a pure electric vehicle, bZ4X's biggest problem lies in "electricity".

According to Dongchedi’s winter electric vehicle endurance test, the bZ4X’s endurance achievement rate is only 37%, which also means that the officially claimed 560km endurance can actually only run 208km under the condition of minus 15 degrees.

The biggest marketing promotion point of bZ4X in the early stage – the butterfly steering wheel with steer-by-wire, does not appear in the models currently on sale.

Instead, this pure electric model with an original price of 220,000 yuan has neither electric tailgate nor electric steering wheel adjustment, and the low-end version has no electric seat adjustment… It has almost none of the configurations related to electricity .

Toyota, how do you explain that?

Not to mention that according to the time when bZ4X debuted, the vast land of our country has already been full of new energy vehicles with green license plates. The bZ series is not a pioneer, and naturally it cannot enjoy enough tolerance from users and public opinion.

At the moment when domestic new energy models are rolling into the sky, and pure electricity is highly linked to intelligence, it is really difficult for such a product to gain a foothold in the Chinese market.

The recently launched bZ3 may not be as bad as the bZ4X in terms of battery life. But this is not because Toyota suddenly got the hang of it, but because Toyota bZ3 is the product of the cooperation between Toyota and BYD . It adopts the three-electric system provided by BYD-30 years in Hedong and 30 years in Hexi, and now the battery life guarantee of pure electric Toyota, Actually want BYD to defend .

Of course, as a "Toyota blower" who used to sit on a Prius, I am still a little bit good at finding compensation for Toyota.

For example, many people like to say that Toyota has the largest number of patents on solid-state batteries in the world, and according to Toyota's plan, all-solid-state lithium batteries are expected to be commercialized around 2025. Solid-state batteries are the next stop for pure electric vehicles, and Toyota "is sure to win."

But if you open the calendar, it is now 2023. Even if solid-state batteries have broad commercial prospects, they have nothing to do with the current car owners who buy bZ4X. The so-called patent and brand aura alone can't make consumers get the slightest benefit.

As for 2025, it is still unknown whether Toyota's solid-state batteries will be able to land smoothly.

The passiveness of the bZ series and even Toyota's pure electric models in this round of changes is not only related to the Japanese's slowness and stability for many years, but also has a lot to do with Akio Toyoda, the president.

Ambition and Stubbornness of Akio Toyoda

On April 1st, Akio Toyoda will step down as president of Toyota Motor Corporation.

During his 14 years in office, Akio Toyoda pushed this giant car company out of the shadow of the financial crisis and the "brake door", and firmly sat on the throne of the world's number one car company. Of course, it mainly relies on fuel or hybrid models based on internal combustion engines.

▲Akio Toyoda's exclusive car: Toyota Century GRMN

In those days when Toyota was going smoothly, Akio Toyoda created the GR "GAZOO Racing" high-performance brand. At present, the GR series models are all powered by fuel or hydrogen energy (for racing).

When the performance departments of other brands such as BMW M, Mercedes-AMG, etc. began to make full preparations for electric high-performance models, Akio Toyoda chose to customize a unique Toyota Century GRMN for himself. A high-performance luxury fuel car.

Akio Toyoda also said that he likes "noisy, gasoline-smelling cars."

▲ Picture from: Oriental JDM subtitle group

It is not difficult to see that fuel vehicles are the "desserts" that Akio Toyoda loves infinitely.

As for electric vehicles, those who are familiar with Toyota may know that Akio Toyoda is not interested in pure electric vehicles.

Since 2019, Akio Toyoda has publicly bombarded the electric vehicle policy every once in a while , and has been sprayed enough from the perspectives of environmental protection, employment, and business models.

I don’t want to output the violent theory that "fuel is the original sin", but as a consumer, it is difficult for you to imagine how a car company owner who is keen on fuel vehicles and has prejudice against pure electric vehicles will lead his staff to build a Excellent electric vehicle product line.

Facing the future, Akio Toyoda chose to bet on hydrogen energy.

The emission of hydrogen energy vehicles is only water, which is excellent in terms of environmental protection. But for now, it is difficult to guarantee the safety of hydrogen energy storage and use, and it is not easy to implement it.

However, the volume and market of pure electric vehicles have already swelled to the point where it cannot be ignored. Even if Akio Toyoda doesn't like it, he has to respond.

So, Akio Toyoda gave everyone a big job.

At the end of 2021, Akio Toyoda held an online press conference to announce Toyota's electrification strategy to the world. Under the code name bZ, he showed 15 electric models in one go.

But even with the huge momentum on the surface, it is difficult to conceal the haste and panic in the dark.

The creation of pure electric models is not accomplished overnight. Trial and error, summary, and optimization all take time. Therefore, in 2023, when the models of "Li Weipeng" have begun to iterate, most of these 15 models have not yet been developed. Can see its true face.

It can be said that in the pure electric era, Toyota has become a chaser, and it is still the kind that cannot run fast enough.

The future is still unknown, but looking back at the brutal development of electric vehicles in the past few years, Toyota should have had a great opportunity, time, money and manpower to take the lead.

In the end, all we see is hesitation, hesitation and complacency. If the driver at the helm doesn't even have a good navigation path, where will this "Century Toyota" drive?

Zhang Nan's retirement, Toyota's future and variables

When asked by the media about the reasons for his resignation, Akio Toyoda said: "I am a bit old. Regarding future development, I should give way to more enterprising people."

Toyota and Akio Toyoda may be the most suitable epitome of the era of electrification change.

Once upon a time, Akio Toyoda was also the cutting-edge figure who stacked wine glasses on the hood of the Lexus LS, amazed the world with its quietness and smoothness, and gave a heavy blow to the German system.

▲Toyota remade this ad in 2019

Doing things well is called killing and making decisions, and doing things poorly is called arbitrariness. Winners and losers, the era has already selected the winner of this round.

From the perspective of marketing and philosophy, there is not much difference between Toyota and the current car companies with great prosperity. The biggest difference lies in the formulation of the route.

As far as the current situation is concerned, in the short term, the route Akio Toyoda has set for Toyota will not change quickly because of his departure.

Toyota's new president, Tsuneji Sato, was previously in charge of the Lexus and GR business lines.

And the more aggressive president of Akio Toyoda recently said that Toyota will launch a new electric vehicle platform in 2026. In other words, we have to wait another 3 years.

Electrification is bound to bring about a major reshuffle, but even if the situation is bad, from a business point of view, Toyota still has the possibility of a headwind turnaround.

The three-year period is long and painful for Toyota, but Toyota's size and perhaps useful patents are still an opportunity for this big ship to turn around successfully.

However, from the perspective of consumers, there is really no need to contribute real money to Toyota's electric blueprint at the moment. You have to know that the current bZ series cannot become the "spaceship" in anyone's mind .

Be natural.

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