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Tesla Model Y BEV and Toyota RAV4 Hybrids Way Ahead In Green Crossover Delivery Race

The Toyota RAV4 Hybrid and Prime trims and Tesla’s Model Y are neck and neck in a U.S. market eager for greener crossover options.

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Crossovers in the size defined by the top-selling Toyota RAV4 have made up the largest segment in overall sales for some time now in the American vehicle market. Although the majority of sales are of conventionally-powered crossovers, shoppers are eager to put an all-wheel drive green crossover in their driveway.

For the past couple of years, Toyota has owned this market with its super-successful RAV4 Hybrid. The RAV4 Hybrid earns a 40 MPG Combined EPA rating, and every one of them comes standard with all-wheel drive. That rating is about one-third more efficient than popular conventionally-powered AWD crossovers like the Chevy Equinox and Mazda CX-5. Toyota had this market almost to itself for the first half of the calendar year, but Tesla has now joined the party with its Model Y battery-electric vehicle which earns a whopping 121 MPGe. The most recent addition to the mix is the hot 2021 RAV4 Prime plug-in hybrid electric vehicle which earns a 94 MPGe rating. It went on sale about two months ago.

All automakers have been shy about sales reports since the pandemic began, but Tesla has rarely, if ever, offered up U.S.-market delivery data for its lineup broken down by model. Why do green vehicle sales in the U.S. matter? For one, it’s Tesla’s home market and Tesla launched all of its models in the California marketplace first, and only then spread the deliveries to other states and other markets following that initial period. So, the U.S matters when one analyzes new trends. Second, the U.S. is one of the largest green vehicle markets. Along with the Japanese market, the U.S has historically been the focus of green vehicle product introductions. China is now emerging as one of the key markets, and will likely lead the world in green vehicle sales in the future simply because of its size. European green vehicle mandates are also impacting deliveries globally.

Related Story: Can the 2016 Toyota RAV4 Hybrid’s Odd AWD System Really Handle Snow?

In the past, the EV-advocacy publication Inside EVs, spent time and energy to discern Tesla’s approximate delivery number for the U.S. market by tracking VIN number reports on social media and state-by-state DMV data. The publication has since given up, and no longer tracks monthly or quarterly EV deliveries in the U.S. However, a new publication has started to make an effort.

Good Car Bad Car (GCBC) has begun to track Tesla’s numbers as best they can. We have colleagues at the publication, and we communicated with the author who publishes the data. Like Inside EVs, GCBC is making an estimation of Tesla’s U.S. deliveries by model. They don’t have actual data directly from the only source that really matters, Tesla. However, without any better source, and with Tesla no longer communicating with the press, we will use the data from GCBC and remind readers that since Tesla is unwilling to tell its owners, investors, and fans how many vehicles it is delivering in its home market each month or quarter, the best we can do is rely on hard-working sites with the available resources to make best guesses.

GCBC’s best guess is that Tesla delivered about 35,000 Model Y crossovers in Q3. Prior to that, GCBC didn’t make an estimation and left the first and second quarters as “zero.” We will therefore only focus on the most recently-ended quarter.

Toyota is always willing to communicate with the press, and when Torque News requested the Q3 delivery data for green crossovers in the RAV4’s size we had an answer within an hour. Toyota put 33,635 RAV4 Hybrids and 960 RAV4 Prime plug-in hybrid-electric vehicles in new owners’ driveways during the period. A virtual tie with Tesla based on the best available data we have. Of course, both companies also make other green vehicles, and serve other markets. Our comparison is of the green RAV4-sized crossovers in the U.S. market.

Virtually every manufacturer, large and small, is planning a green crossover for the coming year. Hyundai, Kia, Ford, and Honda are all planning to release PHEVs, and Honda has just launched its CR-V Hybrid AWD. Mitsubishi has been delivering AWD Outlander PHEVs for years at a low volume and plans an update this fall, along with an all-new Outlander PHEV for 2021. Volkswagen is planning a new BEV crossover as well.

The great news for those who wish to buy an all-wheel-drive green crossover is that the offerings are about to explode with variety. Hopefully, each will match or surpass the robust volumes that Toyota and Tesla have been able to provide in the past quarter.

John Goreham is a life-long car nut and recovering engineer. John's focus areas are technology, safety, and green vehicles. In the 1990s, he was part of a team that built a solar-electric vehicle from scratch. His was the role of battery thermal control designer. For 20 years he applied his engineering and sales talents in the high tech world and automotive supply chain market. In 2008 he retired from that career to chase his dream of being an auto writer. In addition to Torque News, John's work has appeared in print in dozens of American newspapers and he provides reviews to many vehicle shopping sites. You can follow John on Twitter, and view his credentials at Linkedin

Image credits can be seen by hovering one's mouse over the images in the story.

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Paul Fosse    October 12, 2020 - 8:01PM

I consider a hybrid RAV4 green, but some people don’t consider a car with no plug green anymore. It certainly is less green than either the Prime or the Tesla. The question is, how much longer will they sell the non-hybrid RAV4? Does it have any advantages? It costs more to drive, but maybe it is good for someone that only drives 3,000 miles a year so the fuel savings wouldn’t add up to much. But how many people can that be?

John Goreham    October 12, 2020 - 8:24PM

In reply to by Paul Fosse

I think Toyota is ahead of the pack by a country mile. The RAV4, Venza (which is basically a RAV4), Sienna, Highlander, Camry, Corolla, Prius - All available as hybrids and they are selling robustly. All of General Motors has zero. Ford has some but sales are trending to zero and the PHEV Escape is pushed out till next year. Acura, Infiniti, Buick, Cadillac, and many more brands don't have a single car that outsells the Prius. Imagine that!

DeanMcManis (not verified)    October 13, 2020 - 7:47PM

I agree that Toyota's whole-fleet EV push is greater than any other traditional automaker today. Still, I don't think that it is an equal comparison putting the non-plug-in Hybrid RAV4 against the Model Y, but the fact that Toyota is moving most every one of their full-gas models to having electric motors added (hybrids and PHEVs) is having a bigger effect on the auto industry that the regular one-BEV offerings of rivals. They do need to start offering some full BEV models as well. As you rightly say, GM currently only offers the Bolt and no longer has any hybrid models, and Chrysler has been the slowest to get into vehicle electrification for the American "Big Three" so far.