Hybrid Toyota pickup still under consideration
3 October 2017 - autoblog
As the de facto debutante ball for pickup trucks, the State Fair of Texas serves up as much sheetmetal as scuttlebutt.
After Ed Laukes, the group vice president of marketing for Toyota, told Automotive News reporter Laurence Iliff that powertrains would be "a big piece" of the planned upgrades for the Tacoma, Iliff asked about the possibility of a hybrid pickup. Laukes answered there was "absolutely no reason" a hybrid Tacoma couldn't be done, and that the need to satisfy CAFE requirements meant "there's no option that isn't on the table." Laukes' comments echo those of the president of Toyota Canada, who said of hybrid pickups earlier this year, "I'm not saying there's demand for one today, but we've looked at it seriously."
The statements don't mean much by themselves; a long, ruthless road separates a carmaker's war room from the dealer's showroom, littered with ideas killed during the march from the former to the latter. The hybrid pickup idea has been a wily survivor at Toyota HQ, though. Remember the Toyota A-BAT concept hybrid pickup from 2008? The A-BAT went from imminent arrival to indefinite hold in a year (and with it died Toyota's plans for a small-displacement diesel). In 2011, Toyota announced a collaboration with Ford to bring a hybrid pickup to market. Less than two years later, the tie-up had gifted the world little more than an acrimony, a public break-up, and assurances that both automakers would keep production hybrid pickups on their big boards.
Battery-assisted haulers are on the way. In January, Ford announced plans for a showroom-ready F-150 hybrid by 2020. Behind-the-scenes types posit the arrival of a next-gen Jeep Wrangler hybrid pickup and a mild hybrid in the Ram lineup. Third-party fleet specialists like Workhorse and XLP plan to sell retrofitted hybrid pickups next year, a development certain to massage consumer hearts and minds; Bob-Lutz-approved VIA Motors expects to move 50,000 such vehicles by itself. Having mulled the idea for so long, and with so much imminent movement in the segment, and with a Toyota hybrid already doing righteous work in the Lexus NX 300h - which weighs about the same as a Tacoma - we don't envision Toyota staying out of the game for long.