The Australian Camry Hybrid Distraction or Innovation?

The new hybrid Camry is a welcome distraction for Toyota Australia amidst the Prius media storm. With the recall extending to Australia the local confidence in their hybrid range has undoubtedly wavered. With a total of 2378 Prius vehicles being recalled early this year consumer and fleet buyers alike may be hesitant about the new hybrid Camry.

However Toyota issued in its press release that ‘the locally made Hybrid Camry launched this week in Australia is not affected (by the prius accelerator problems)’. If you trust this statement and look past the Prius fiasco then the Hybrid Camry does have a strong value proposition.

It’s the first car that challenges old perceptions of Hybrids, previously seen as a ‘sacrifice’ that environmentally conscious individuals & companies made to help mother-nature. The ‘sacrifice’ being, power, comfort and style for fuel efficiency and a reduction in CO2 emissions.

But the new Camry puts that view on its head. You get all the perks of a normal Camry but with the fuel efficiency and environmental kudos of a hybrid. There’s just one thing that may hold it back, its $7000 more than its petrol powered sibling and apart from the engine and a new front end there’s pretty much no difference between them.
 

The Facts

  • It’s rated 5 stars on the government green vehicle guide
  • It produces 142 grams per kilometre of carbon dioxide. This is equivalent to a small car with a 1.3L engine o That’s 79 grams less than the new SIDI commodore and 94 grams less than the latest falcon
  • The fuel economy is 5-6L/100km depending on where and how you drive it. A lot less than other V6’s in its class
  • According to Toyota you DON”T have to replace the battery for at least 8 years and they have given an 8 year warranty to back that statement up o A lot of speculation has circled on the recurring costs of replacing hybrid batteries and quite a few consumers believe this voids the fuel efficiency savings
  • With 140kw under the hood it’s got a decent amount of power
  • It’s about $7000 more than the petrol Camry
  • You save around $1300 a year on fuel according to Toyota’s calculations
  • Saving 1,100L of petrol per year based on travelling at least 20,000km per year with petrol prices at $1.20
  • With the mentioned fuel economy it takes 5-6 years to gain the extra $7000 back
     

The Verdict

The best/worst thing about this car though is that it’s basically a normal Camry apart from the engine. It definitely has better fuel efficiency than its competition, but if it takes 5-6 years for that fuel efficiency to make up the 7K price gap so you have to question whether it’s a viable investment. In simple terms its a leaner greener Camry that costs a fair bit more.

For this car to be make sense financially you probably have to meet the following criteria;

  • You drive over 20,000km a year (any less than this and the fuel savings don’t make up that price gap)
  • You’re predominantly a city driver in start stop traffic, as country driving and freeway driving reduce the fuel efficiency from the 6L that those savings are calculated on
  • You like the look and feel of the normal Camry (obviously)
  • Being Green is very important to you (or your company if you’re a fleet buyer)

Whether or not the ROI translates it is still an exciting step towards a greener future and a bold step for Toyota which we must commend them for. It’s simply short sited to think hybrid technology isn’t going to become main-stream and this vehicle is definitely paving the way.

It is an innovation for sure, but like most innovations it will take a while for the masses to warm to the concept. If you add the recent press surrounding Toyota’s other hybrid the real benefits of the Camry might well be overshadowed by bad press and skepticism.

If the cost comes down and the technology becomes widely accepted there will be no disputing this type of cars value for families and fleets alike. Until then we simply will have to see the sales volumes to determine the public’s acceptance.

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