Toyota’s hybrid line-up has sold over 10 million units as of January 31, 2017, in which 3.9 million units of it are the Toyota Prius, making it the world’s best selling hybrid vehicle. This is reflected when you visit numerous other nations, in which the Prius, its derivative vehicles, and vehicles with a hybrid option are usually on top of the sales charts. Unfortunately, this is not the case in the Philippines.
Toyota’s Hybrid Electric Technology Conference has been organized in a bid to bring public awareness to electrified vehicles (xEVs). However, we think that a hybrid’s lack of popularity in the Philippines has much more to do with price rather than awareness. Since its release in 2009, only around 100 units of the Toyota Prius have been sold, which is a paltry number, and this is mainly due to its high price tag.
Currently, the Toyota Prius costs P2,249,000, which puts it in the higher end of the market spectrum rather than the mass market. A Prius is seen as more of a luxury item rather than a mass-market commodity. It’s basically paying 2.5 V Camry money for a Corolla-sized car with better fuel economy than a Wigo, but with fewer toys, luxury, and performance than the aforementioned Camry, and that’s quite a hard pill to swallow even for the most eco-friendly motorist.
During the interview session, Mr. Satoru Suzuki, the President of Toyota Motor Philippines says that the Prius is expensive because of taxes and import duties since the Prius is imported from Japan. Even with the TRAIN law lowering taxes for hybrids, this did little to lower the Prius’ price tag.
You might be wondering then how come Lexus’ hybrid vehicles in the Philippine are performing better sales-wise, especially when you see quite a good number of these around our financial districts. Well, this has to do with JPEPA, which tax exempts vehicles imported from Japan with engine displacements of 3,000cc and higher. The Lexus RX 450h, LS 500h, and LC 500h all have 3,000cc engines mated to their electric motors, which makes them competitively priced in the premium car market.
However, there is hope for hybrids to become mainstream in the Philippines. According to Mr. Nico Bravante, Vice President for Product Planning of Toyota Motor Philippines, the Toyota Prius can theoretically be priced at P1.6-1.7 million if all the taxes are removed. That is what they, along with the Chamber of Automotive Manufacturers of the Philippines, Inc. (CAMPI) are working on with the government. Seeing that the current administration is quite open when it comes to the revision of regulations regarding taxes, we hope that before 2022, the government will be a lot more open to the proliferation of xEVs in the Philippines.
xEVs are expensive to build and manufacture, but as the technology becomes mainstream, eventually driving down the cost from raw material extraction to manufacturing, xEVs will one day be priced similarly to internal combustion engines. For now, the reason why xEVs are more affordable in some markets is because of government incentives and/or subsidies. For now, the Philippines is not at the forefront when it comes to the government providing support for xEVs.
Hybrid vehicle education and awareness is one thing, but what better way to bring awareness to the public than making the vehicles themselves affordable and letting the product speak for itself based on customer feedback, testimonies, and word-of-mouth? If the price of the Toyota Prius is at P1.6-1.7 million, would you splurge your hard-earned cash for the world’s most popular hybrid?