TOKYO – Japanese and Korean auto makers reported record hybrid- and electric-vehicle sales in fiscal 2011, with the Japanese rallying following two months of lost business resulting from the March earthquake and tsunami.
Sales during the year totaled 1.1 million units.
Toyota again was the industry leader with sales reaching nearly 800,000 units, up from an estimated 670,490 in fiscal 2010. It was followed by Honda and Nissan with 234,060 and 33,450, respectively. Nissan deliveries consisted mainly of Leaf EVs.
Mitsubishi’s focus also was on electric cars. The auto maker sold 16,196 units including 14,170 i-MiEVs. In November, it launched a second model, the Minicab-MiEV.
Coming next for Mitsubishi is a plug-in hybrid version of the Outlander SUV due out late this year.
South Korea’s leading auto maker, Hyundai, sold 28,117 hybrids including 25,413 Sonatas. Its Seoul-based Kia affiliate delivered 14,709 units, the majority being gas-electric Optimas.
Included in the Sonata Hybrid total were 11,000 units sold in North America.
Hyundai reported in October it would mass-produce an EV starting in early 2014. The auto maker claims the car will differ from the limited-production BlueOn EV introduced in 2010 for fleet-test purposes.
Kia introduced an electric version of the Ray miniwagon in May, and the auto maker reportedly has a Ray PHEV in the pipeline.
Among Japanese auto makers, Honda now has six hybrids in its lineup including two sold exclusively in Japan, the Fit Shuttle and Freed. The domestic market accounted for 75% of sales last year.
As part of Honda’s long-term strategy to improve corporate average fuel economy, it will introduce both an EV and PHEV this year. The plug-in hybrid, currently being tested in Accord and Inspire models, will be launched in the U.S. and Japan toward the end of this year. The auto maker plans to sell 1,000 units in the car’s first year.
Employing a lithium-ion battery, the Honda PHEV can cover 10-15 miles (16-24 km) in electric mode.
The Fit EV, which debuted in 2010 at the Los Angeles auto show, will be introduced to the market this summer. Initial plans call for 1,100 leases in Japan and the U.S. over the next three years. Leases are expected to span 30 months.
Rival Toyota sells 18 hybrid models, including five through its Lexus premium brand. In fiscal 2011, the auto maker sold a record 797,715 units, of which 75% were Priuses and Prius derivatives.
Last fiscal year, the auto maker introduced the following models: the Prius V and Prius C (sold in Japan as the Prius Alpha and Aqua), the Prius plug-In hybrid, Alphard and Vellfire hybrids (available only in Japan) and new Camry Hybrid.
Toyota also will launch two EVs this year: an electric Scion this summer and RAV4 EV in December. Scion iQ EV deliveries will be limited to fleets. Current plans call for 400 units to be sold in Japan and 100 each in the U.S. and Europe.
Coinciding with the Camry’s full model change last October, Toyota now builds the hybrid version of the car in China, Australia, Thailand, Taiwan and the U.S.
From late 2012, the auto maker will begin RAV4 EV production in Canada at Toyota Motor Mfg. Canada in Woodstock, ON. And from mid-2013, it will shift Highlander Hybrid production from Japan to Toyota Motor Mfg. Indiana in the U.S.
Honda Mfg. Indiana began production of Honda’s first North American hybrid, the Acura ILX, in April. Nissan plans to launch Leaf output late this year at its Nissan North America facility in Smryna, TN, followed in early 2013 by Nissan Motor Mfg. (U.K.) at Sunderland, U.K.
Planned Leaf production in the U.S. and U.K. is 150,000 and 50,000 units, respectively.
Nissan also will launch the e-NV200 EV and Altima hybrid in 2013. It will produce the Altima in Smyrna and the e-NV200 at Nissan Motor Iberia in Barcelona, Spain. The Altima will feature the auto maker’s new front-drive hybrid system.
Mazda, a minor player in the hybrid-EV field, will introduce a battery-powered Demio in the second half of the fiscal year, followed by a gas-electric hybrid in fiscal 2013. The hybrid will incorporate Toyota’s hybrid technology, including key components such as battery packs, inverters and power control units.
Both models will be available only in Japan. Mazda plans to lease 100 units initially and hopes to begin retail sales by 2018. Its first hybrid, a gas-electric version of the Tribute SUV, was phased out of production in July 2009.
Suzuki is conducting a fleet test involving 150 Swift plug-in hybrids. The auto maker is readying the car for a Japanese market launch in 2013.
In the truck sector, Mitsubishi Fuso revised its Canter hybrid truck. The vehicle, which employs a 3.0L diesel engine, achieves 30 mpg (7.8 L/100 km). At the 2011 Tokyo auto show, the truck maker exhibited a concept hybrid dump truck.
Hino, Toyota’s truck-making subsidiary, sold 1,350 hybrid trucks and buses in fiscal 2011 and plans to double sales in the current fiscal year. Hino introduced the diesel-electric Dutro truck in June 2011.