OJAI, CA – Toyota says reducing the monthly lease payment of its Mirai hydrogen-fuel-cell vehicle should help build awareness and boost purchase consideration for the nearly 1-year-old car.
“I think we felt like we needed to make an adjustment. Our evaluation was it would be a little bit helpful to have a more affordable payment,” Bill Fay, group vice president-Toyota Div., says here at a media preview of select ’17 Toyota models.
On Wednesday, Toyota announced it cut the California-only Mirai’s lease price from $499 per month, as it has been since the ’16 model launched in October 2015, to $349 per month for ʼ17. The required down payment on the 3-year lease is $2,499 excluding taxes and fees, a reduction from $3,649 last year.
While Toyota is not adjusting the $58,365 purchase price of the car ($57,500 plus an $865 destination and handling charge), it still is offering a $7,500 “Trailblazer” discount and low APR financing of 0% for 60 months or, new for ’17, 1.9% for 72 months.
Hyundai, which leases its Tucson fuel-cell CUV for $499 a month in California, won’t say whether it will follow suit and drop its vehicle’s monthly lease payment.
While it is a relatively low-selling car, the 312-mile (502-km) range Mirai has racked up a healthy 641 deliveries this year in the U.S., WardsAuto data shows. Hyundai has sold just 35 Tucson FCVs this year, although a spokesman for the automaker says the vehicle was intended to be more niche than the Mirai. Hyundai’s next-generation FCV is expected to be built and sold in higher quantities.
Fay concedes California’s hydrogen infrastructure has been slower to develop than Toyota had hoped.
California was to have 50 refueling stations up and running by late 2016, which dropped to 40. Now, the number of stations open by year-end in the Golden State is seen as closer to 30, says Nathan Kokes, brand manager-advanced technology vehicles for Toyota Motor Sales U.S.A.
“It’s been an interesting ride because each municipality has their own unique set of regulations,” Kokes says here of the trials and tribulations of installing hydrogen pumps.
In an interview with WardsAuto last month, Craig Scott, director-advanced technology vehicles for TMSUSA, reasoned: “Even electric-charging stations had the benefit of 10 or 15 years of prior experience. No one’s ever built a retail-only hydrogen station until just last year. There’s growing pains.”
Those growing pains have had Toyota employees out and about in Southern California, doing “station assurance testing” to ensure pumps are operating as expected and Mirai owners don’t end up with “a lawn ornament,” Scott says.
This year, pumps with a lower-than-stated fill rate or pumps late to commence service have resulted in both Toyota and Hyundai stopping sales of their FCVs in certain areas of California for short periods of time.
Kokes is fine with Toyota’s due diligence benefiting the rest of the upstart FCV segment, adding he is excited about the forthcoming Honda Clarity FCV’s debut later this year as it will build interest in fuel cells.
He also lauds Honda’s commitment to infrastructure, as Honda, like Toyota, has invested millions in retail stations developed by FirstElement Fuel, whose pumps go by the brand name True Zero.
Participating in infrastructure development is not something Toyota sees as its “core competency,” Scott says.
“And it’s also not something I think most car companies are comfortable doing, because it feels so out of the norm. But the reality of it is, at least in Toyota, we finally accepted it wasn’t going to happen fast enough.
“At least it wasn’t going to meet our timeframe for what we would call success,” Scott says. It required us then to take a more active role in that, so that’s what we’ve done.”
The Mirai can be purchased or leased by vetted buyers at eight California dealers, four in Southern California and four in Northern California. For ’17, Toyota continues to offer perks for Mirai owners or lessees, such as three years or $15,000 worth of complimentary fuel, a complimentary rental car for seven days per year for three years and three years of scheduled maintenance, 24/7 customer call support and Toyota’s Safety Connect service.