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Stricker: With fuel-efficient cars, it's all about cost and price

Tom Stricker

Vice president, technology and regulatory affairs, Toyota Motor North America

We take a little bit more conservative approach to this technology in an effort to try to keep the cost down because, quite frankly, if nobody buys it, it doesn’t do anything good for the environment.

What we are doing is building off what we’ve learned in 11 years of marketing hybrids in the U.S. We’ve learned that the initial early adopter market might not look the same at the technology and the payback as the broader public.

So you will get a certain amount of sales, [but] to get them in the hands of the everyday customer, it’s going to be all about cost and price.

From Toyota’s perspective, build it and they will come, but it’s not a way to run a business in the long term.

Ultimately, you don’t build the capacity when you don’t have the market, so we need to lower the cost. We’re all competing and working diligently to try to lower the cost of these [electric car] batteries through technology. You have to get some scale in manufacturing in the first place to get the learning and production efficiencies in the manufacturing process. Then you also need generational advances from the technical perspective in these batteries in order to bring the cost down further.

This spring, we’re going to launch the Prius plug-in. It will have a 15-mile range on electric, only after which point it will operate as a conventional hybrid vehicle at about 49 miles a gallon.

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