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Toyota has now sold five million hybrids

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So.
Toyota, the biggest car company in the world, has announced it has sold five
million hybrids. Journalistic tradition dictates that we now help you relate to
that number by putting it in context. But we don’t know how whether they would
reach to the moon if placed end-to-end, or how many times they would fill
Wembley Stadium. Whatever, it’s good business for Toyota. What does it mean for
 us?

We
asked Karl Schlicht, Toyota and Lexus chief of sales and marketing and product
in Europe. He says it’s snowballing. Schlicht points out that of that five
million in 15 years, 1.2 million were in 2012 alone. That’s double the total
for any other year.

The
Auris and Yaris hybrids are doing massive business, but Toyota is also starting
to build more interesting hybrids too. The new Lexus IS300h above, f’rinstance. A car,
he says, is influenced by the spirit of the GT86. He cites the rear-drive, and
its sporty driving position.

He’s
also adamant that hybrid does matter in Europe, a market otherwise dominated by
diesel. One in six Toyotas sold in Europe in 2012 were hybrids, and this year
he expects the proportion to be to be one in five. Two out of every five
Yarises are hybrids, and nearly half the Aurises. ‘We’re at a tipping point in
Europe,’ he claims, ‘And it isn’t just because of the Prius.’

The
first Prius was a bit of a moonshot when launched 15 years ago. I can’t
remember many of us thinking it would really catch on. But now it’s really
affected Toyota’s business. The general public think of Toyota, formerly a
stick-in-the-mud ‘appliance’ brand, as a green innovator. ‘Hybrids are good for
conquest sales for us.’

But
in Europe, Lexus has been badly hampered by having no diesels (the old IS220d
won’t be replaced). Because people in Europe don’t want big petrols in their
non-sporty executive cars, basically Lexus buyers have just one powertrain
choice: the hybrid.

We
ask Schlicht why there’s only one powertrain in the CT200h, while the Audi A3
and BMW 1-series offer loads of choices, petrol and diesel. ‘Basically we don’t
do diesels well enough to do them better than our hybrids,’ he says, bluntly.
Japan and especially America – where diesel doesn’t really matter – have been
the focus. ‘We don’t have the scale in Europe. We have invested in the US,
where we got the return.’

That’s
changing now. There won’t be new Lexus diesels, but there will be more hybrid
choices, with luck ore interesting. ‘From now on we’ll start investing in
powerplants for Europe.’

So the
hybrid, at least in the medium term, is here to stay. We don’t have an official reaction from Clarkson yet, but for you TopGear.commers, is this good news? 

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