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Driven: Toyota Kluger Hybrid demand underestimated?

Hybrids expected to make up more than half of fourth-generation Toyota Kluger sales

15 Jun 2021

TOYOTA Australia has admitted that its sales predictions for Hybrid variants in the fourth-generation Kluger large SUV line-up may be conservative as the hybrid share for other Toyota models continues to rise.


Speaking at the recent Kluger launch, Toyota Australia vice president of sales, marketing and franchise operations, Sean Hanley, told the assembled media that initial estimates of the V6/Hybrid split were around 50 per cent.


“But truth is I think that might be a bit conservative; I expect it will go over 50 per cent (and) I think the Hybrid variant will be very popular in the Kluger line-up,” he said.


Against a backdrop of six-month average wait times for RAV4 Hybrid variants, which account for for 80 per cent of total RAV4 volume in Australia, Mr Hanley remained confident that supply of Kluger Hybrids would be sufficient.


“We believe that we’re pretty well covered with the launch expectation (of Kluger Hybrid supply), however, given the popularity of Hybrid (in other Toyota models) I would expect it to go over 50 per cent,” he said.


“We’ve ordered to that planning mix, however ultimately I guess the market will determine it. But I’m pretty confident with our launch supply of this vehicle.”


Since 2016 the sales split of the previous-generation Kluger – generally the second most-popular large SUV behind the Toyota Prado, and offered only with a 3.5-litre petrol V6 – favoured the front-drive variant at 57 per cent, with the remainder being all-wheel drive.


However, due to the new Kluger Hybrid variants being exclusively AWD for the time being, Mr Hanley said a reversal of the 2WD/AWD split in the new model “wouldn’t surprise me”.


As for new Kluger also being offered as a front-wheel-drive Hybrid like RAV4, Toyota Australia general manager of product planning and development, Rod Ferguson, said “we focused on the AWD Hybrid – we think that’s going to be very popular in the line-up”.


“We’ll continue to look at whether or not we can or need to introduce the 2WD Hybrid down the track. We’ll see how the split between the petrol and hybrid variations is going as well.


“If (Kluger) exceeds all expectations and goes really high on Hybrid then that’s a great thing and we’ll just have to adjust as quick as we can and try and keep that waiting time down.”


Mr Ferguson added that sourcing the Kluger from Toyota’s Princeton plant in Indiana, United States presented a “different situation” to the RAV4 supply issue.


“It doesn’t necessarily mean it would be the same as RAV4 if we had to flex (beyond Kluger’s projected 50 per cent Hybrid sales split),” he said.


“The car’s got a different source, it’s coming from the US, it’s a different situation, so we’ll do our best to flex as much as we can.”


As well as the vast majority of RAV4 sales being Hybrid, other Toyota models are following suit with Hybrid variants making up 89 per cent of Camry sales, 74 per cent of Yaris Cross sales and 67 per cent of Corolla sales.   


This, according to Mr Hanley has elevated petrol-electric Toyotas to “just under 30 per cent of our total sales”.


“And they have been above that level in both April and May,” he said.


“We’ve also reached a milestone, selling our 200,000th hybrid vehicle in this country last month (May 2021), with half those sales occurring in just three years.”


Australia is the only market outside of the US and Japan to receive all four generations of Kluger (badged Highlander elsewhere) and local Toyota executives said specific influences from this market during the development of the fourth-generation Kluger related to towing capacity and powertrain capacity.


Both the hybrid four-cylinder and petrol V6 are rated to tow braked trailers weighing up to 2000kg.


The Australian Kluger line-up is offered in three model grades – GX, GXL and Grande – each with three drivetrain configurations. These include a 184kW 2.5-litre Atkinson Cycle hybrid four-cylinder with AWD, and a 218kW/350Nm 3.5-litre direct-injection V6 with either front- or all-wheel drive.


The hybrid uses an electronic CVT transmission and three motor generators – one driving the rear axle for its ‘eFour’ AWD system – whereas the V6 uses an Aisin eight-speed automatic and conventional on-demand AWD system (where fitted).


Kluger pricing starts at $47,650 (before on-road costs) for the GX front-drive V6, with the mid-range GXL starting at $56,860 (before on-road costs) and the Grande from $68,900 (before on-road costs).


In each instance, adding AWD to the V6 commands a $4000 premium, while opting for a Hybrid AWD adds an additional $2500 to the price.


Servicing is capped at $250 per visit (for the first five years/75,000km), with recommended servicing every 12 months or 15,000km.


2021 Toyota Kluger pricing*

GX (a) $47,650
GX AWD (a) $51,650
GX Hybrid (a) $54,150
GXL (a) $56,850
GXL AWD (a) $60,850
GXL Hybrid (a) $63,350
Grande (a) $68,900
Grande AWD (a) $72,900
Grande Hybrid (a) $75,400

*Excludes on-road costs

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