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Toyota Delivered More RAV4 Primes In First 9 Weeks Than Tesla Did Model 3, X, or S

Much has been said about the Toyota RAV4 Prime's delivery rate. Almost all of it negative. Shoppers are lining up to buy the crossover at MSRP or above. Here's the reality of how quickly the RAV4 Prime came to market compared to other successful electric vehicles.

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The Toyota RAV4 Prime plug-In hybrid-electric vehicle (PHEV) launched in the United States at the very end of July during the worst possible time in history to launch a new vehicle. With the pandemic still taking thousands of lives each month, and new cases still trending up in key markets, buyers were wary of any shopping that was not critically necessary. Yet, despite this terrible climate in which to launch, Toyota's RAV4 Prime's delivery pace was significantly faster than many other green vehicles now considered success stories.

RAV4 Prime Delivery Data
Toyota replied instantly when Torque News requested a detailed breakdown of the U.S. deliveries of the RAV4 Prime. The first delivery was dated 7-27-2020. In its first 9.5 weeks of sales (basically two months), Toyota put 960 RAV4 Primes into the driveways of new owners. Concurrent with that, Toyota separately delivered 33,635 RAV4 Hybrids in case you wondering if the Hybrid buyers shied away knowing the Prime trim was coming. They did not.

Tesla Delivery Data - Model S, Model X, Model 3
To gain an understanding of how quickly Toyota delivered its first thousand or so RAV4 Prime PHEVs, we compared the ramp in delivery rate to some vehicles that most green car enthusiasts would agree were successes in the marketplace. First we looked at Tesla, the favorite brand of many battery-electric vehicle fans.

The Model S launched in America in June of 2012. It was Tesla's first vehicle that was not a conversion of a Lotus. This new model took seven months to reach 960 units sold. We are not trying to compare this directly to the launch of the RAV4 Prime. It is just one part of the overview.

The Tesla Model X launched in September of 2015. It took Tesla longer to reach 960 units delivered for this third model than it did the Model S. The Model X was a disaster of a launch. It took three months for Tesla to even break double-digit sales. In total, it took Tesla 7 months before it delivered 960 Model X minivans. Tesla swore it had learned all the lessons needed to launch its most important product, the upcoming Model 3 sedan in a more appropriate manner.

Related Story (2015) - Failure to launch- Tesla has delivered 15 Model X vehicles in 3 months

The Tesla Model 3 launched in July of 2017. By this point in time, Tesla had produced three prior vehicle models and was a 14-year old company with billions in public financing. It took Tesla a bit more than five months to deliver 960 vehicles. So, Toyota's RAV4 Prime run rate was more than double the Tesla Model 3's in its first months of deliveries. It is hard to argue that the Tesla Model 3 is not the world's most successful electric vehicle.

Chevy Volt and Chevy Bolt Delivery Ramp vs. Toyota RAV4 Prime
Tesla is not the only green vehicle manufacturer to slow-walk intial launches. When Chevy first debuted the Volt PHEV in December of 2010 (known back in the old days an EREV), it took this global manufacturing leader three months to deliver 960 Volts.

When GM launched the Bolt BEV in December of 2016, its launch was more impressive than all the prior green vehicle launches in history (with the possible exception of the Prius). It took GM just two months to deliver 960 Bolts. Our guestimate is that it was about 7 weeks, but Mfgs don't break deliveries down by weeks. So, our estimate is that the Bolt and RAV4 Prime had very similar delivery paces at launch.

Nissan Leaf Gen 1 and Leaf Gen 2 Ramp vs. Toyota RAV4 Prime
It took Nissan about six months to deliver 960 Leafs back in late 2010 and early 2011. The second-generation Leaf debuted in Q2 of 2018. It is hard to say exactly how many were delivered in what span of time since the Leaf Gen 1 deliveries are mixed in. But in January of 2018 Nissan only delivered 150 total Leafs.

One last Comparison - Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV vs. Toyota RAV4 Prime Deliveries
Through the end of September, Mitsubishi has delivered 947 Outlander PHEVs. Toyota's RAV4 Prime delivery rate is more than triple that of this green crossover model which has been in the marketplace for over two model years.

Why No Tesla Model Y Comparison?
Torque News reached out to the Tesla media support team and asked for the U.S. delivery history of the Model Y crossover which launched in late Q1 of this year. That data is known to Tesla and no longer secret in any way. We were unable to find any other reliable source of U.S. delivery data for the Model Y, or any official Tesla delivery data broken down by month and model. Tesla has a long history of obscuring its delivery data. Our usual third-party sources for such data, notably InsideEVs, stopped the hard work required to tease this information out of RMV records when EVs total sales began to decline last year. So, without a source, we cannot comment on the Model Y's launch volumes. As usual, Tesla opted not to participate in any sort of analysis of its deliveries in the U.S.

Toyota RAV4 Prime Delivery Expectations Going Forward
With a U.S Presidential election cycle about to hit in the midddle of this present quarter, we would expect Toyota to purposefully restrict its RAV4 Prime sales to some degree. Affordable EVs sell better when they benefit from massive tax benefits and without any clarity on the future of the incentives, all manufaturers seem to be slow-walking their new green vehicles. Honda, Hyundai,and Kia have all kicked their crossover PHEV model launches in to 2021. We would expect Toyota to continue to deliver about 500 RAV4 Primes per month until year's end, and then we can better forecast the green vehicle delivery volumes in early 2021.

Summary - Toyota's RAV4 Prime Launch Among the Most Robust In EV History
What is not in question is that the green vehicle media who favor battery-electric vehicles seized on a set of "talking points" to diminish the success of the hot Toyota RAV4 Prime. The RAV4 Prime has been launched at a rate that is faster than almost every green vehicle in history, yet the green vehicle media continues to sideline the success of the vehicle by falsely pretending its volume of delivery is less than would normally be expected. Tesla-advocacy publication, Elektrek, called Toyota's delivery schedule of 5,000 units in 2020 as "laughable." Yet, 5,000 units of a new EV is a pace that is among the fastest in green vehicle history.

Toyota's transparent sharing of delivery data is just one example of how the truth of the matter is often ignored in favor of an agenda by those green vehicle advocates who see only one type of vehicle as a soluton to a problem Toyota has been tackling longer than any other manufacturer.

For historical sales data of EVs, we suggest InsideEvs. Some of the data in this story were pulled from this valuable reource.

John Goreham is a long-time New England Motor Press Association member and recovering engineer. Following his engineering program, John also completed a marketing program at Northeastern University and worked with automotive component manufacturers. 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

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Paul Dentel (not verified)    October 2, 2020 - 2:34PM

Greetings. Any updates for when the Rav 4 Prime will be sold in other regions in America? Specifically Gulf States like Texas? Thank you.

John Goreham    October 2, 2020 - 2:48PM

In reply to by Paul Dentel (not verified)

I did ask that question to Toyota last month. The reply was something like "no." There is no timing for that yet. As I have said in other posts and stories, I think Toyota is marketing the limited inventory in areas where the EV incentives are highest. Of course, the Gulf states could join the ZEV states, but that does not seem likely in the near term. My guess is we will have more info on the availability of the Prime outside of ZEV states in early 2021.

Eve Musk (not verified)    October 2, 2020 - 2:45PM

Opsss sorry Too Musk's must have asked for the consent of him first to name it yes.., delete it and give the name of EVE me like the name, because I want to forget all the stories behind me tired of my previous story, now I want a new life, so a novice, and a new Privacy, Must Ask Big Boss First ya

Tim Short (not verified)    October 3, 2020 - 6:11AM

While I support Toyota’s successful launch of the RAV4 Prime, because it’s a greener vehicle than its non hybrid counterpart, I caution the author on two fronts:
1) the Prime is NOT an EV. It is a PHEV. For customers less familiar or scared of full EVs, that’s a major reason for the different sales rate dynamic.
2) Tesla’s, including the Model 3, tend to be more expensive than the RAV4.

Kathy (not verified)    October 12, 2020 - 3:55PM

In reply to by Tim Short (not verified)

Actually, the price of the Model 3 and Rav 4 Prime are similar at this point. The model 3 starts at about $35K, and the Prime at about $38k. I've been driving a Prius Prime since 2017 which has an electric range of about 25 miles. When I was commuting and charging at home each evening, I was getting an average of 100 mpg (no chargers at work). I haven't filled my tank since March 7 and started working from home around the same time. Today I still have more than an 1/8 of a tank and have driven 2291 miles, charging up at home when needed. The next time I need to fill up, I estimate my mileage will be over 200 mpg (I record odometer, fill-up volume, and date each time I visit a gas station). My husband is all in with a Tesla Model 3, but I still suffer from range anxiety. A road trip last year to Quebec reinforced my anxiety as I saw only one charging station on my route. However, getting nearly 60 mpg and a range of about 600 miles on ICE, I wasn't worried. So, I would argue that a PHEV could actually function as an EV for anyone with a short commute or working from home (or retired) and using the car to just run errands around town, etc.. I'm on the lookout for the Rav 4 Prime which will increase my electric range so maybe I'll only have to fill up once or twice a year. Unfortunately, I have so far only found only 2 within 100 miles of my home in RI...maybe by the time they show up here, there will be enough charging stations that I'll be ready for give up the ICE completely for a proper EV!!

tony dicenzo (not verified)    October 3, 2020 - 6:55AM

Toyota would do well to fix the gas tank problem on the RAV4 and share any progress being made with owners. We seem to be being kept in the dark.THe issue is the car has a 14.5 gallon tank, but because of the design of the tank can give access to 10 gallons. The range of those 10 gallons is upwards of 500 miles, making it an inconvenience rather than a safety issue, but it seems to be gaining momentum as new owners (like myself) discover they have it. Fix it and we will be happy campers. Shove it under the rug and we'll never by another Toyota. This is my third and possible last depending on resolving this issue.

Mike (not verified)    October 3, 2020 - 11:27AM

In reply to by tony dicenzo (not verified)

500 miles on a tank of gas and you are complaining!! You must have a massive bladder. I’ve never owned a vehicle that you can fill to the same amount stated in the owners manual. Is it really a problem?

Daniel Raff (not verified)    October 3, 2020 - 12:15PM

In reply to by tony dicenzo (not verified)

My wife and I take out Rav4 Hybrid on road trips often. It is my belief that the issue is more of a fuel level sensor issue then a tank issue. I think the fuel gauge reads less fuel then is actually in the tank. Still an annoyance but one that I'm willing to deal with.

tony dicenzo (not verified)    October 3, 2020 - 5:22PM

In reply to by Daniel Raff (not verified)

I think you are right. But what irks me is I have seen absolutely NO RESPONSE from Toyota. We can't tell if they are testing, or ignoring the issue. A little testing would go a long way to dispelling concerns. Plus, the data people are reporting suggests the further we drive the car the less we will be able to put in the tank. I have driven the car to the point where the gas tank warning light gets lit three times, and each time I have been able to put fewer and fewer gallons in the tank. I am taking another cross-state trip tomorrrow and will be refueling in a couple of days. For the guy who asks why I am concerned, I will say this. One, I have had a gas tank problem before, where I got fewer and few miles on a tank until I started to get 5 miles before it would go no further. Chevy flew a guy out from the factory to investigate and found a serious issue. Two, this is not a one off issue. There are HUNDREDS of people experiencing this issue. Three, I am seeing no testing taking place to see what happens if you drive the car until it literally runs dry. Is there still gas in the tank that the pick up isn't getting to? Or is there something blocking the tank filling up? I do not believe I am getting 50 mpg. I think my car is using more gas than I am putting in, using up the reserve,and eventually when the light gets lit it will stop until more gas is put in, with me sitting on the side of the road waiting for the AAA guy to bring it. I've had that happen before and it is not something I want to experience again.

John Goreham    January 17, 2021 - 12:06PM

In reply to by tony dicenzo (not verified)

Hi Tony, Thank you for your post. Toyota has a successful Customer Support Program for the RAV4 Hybrid underway. It launched in December, and many owners on related forums have reported a quick and easy fix at no cost to themselves. Rather than "shove it under the rug," to use your words, Toyota has also extended the warranty on affected vehicles by 8 years and 100K miles. This will ensure that possible second owners are also covered if a first owner opts not to make the repair. Let us know how yours turns out. If you have not had your repaired already, be sure to call ahead for a no-cost loaner vehicle. Many owners are reporting they were offered one.

Adrian Cooper (not verified)    October 3, 2020 - 8:47AM

You do realize comparing sales data with Tesla is a worthless comparison right? Because Tesla sold every car that they manufacture so their sales data only show their production capacity but not the market demand. Not to mention their US made car are being shipped to other countries to fill orders as well..

John Goreham    October 3, 2020 - 9:13PM

In reply to by Adrian Cooper (not verified)

I understand your points, Adrian and I appreciate the comment. The Tesla US delivery data that is used in this story is actual US delivery to consumer info. It was painstakingly gathered by the workers at Inside EVs, a publication we respect on many levels. The sources of the data include VIN reports and RMV data. The Toyota data is US sales. Presently, the RAV4 Prime is being sold immediately upon arrival at dealer lots. I do try my best to make a differentiation when a "sale" is a dealer order vs a delivery to a consumer. It's not perfect, but I try to keep it straight. This particular story is not about market demand in any way. Strictly how quickly various manufacturers could produce and deliver vehicles immediately upon launch. I'm glad you posted the comment to offer the chance to clarify. Cheers,

Mark (not verified)    October 3, 2020 - 9:31AM

The article implies that Toyota was able to ramp Prime production faster than any other producer and took pains to compare the ramp to Tesla's introductions.
I would note that Toyota is a firm almost 100 years old and is the second largest manufacturer in the world with decades of production experience and billions of dollars of cash on hand.
I would also note that unlike any Tesla, the RAV-4 Prime is an evolution of a current production model.
Toyota took years to bring the Mirai to production which is an all new platform and technology.
Launching a new model whose production details have been settled for years and represents a modification of an existing product should be relatively smooth for a company with that much experience.
All PHEV producers are slow walking their intros because they see the weakness of the US economy even if the stock market and this administration refuse to.
Cautious companies are going to be hesitant to spend big money when they see massive unemployment numbers, no fiscal assistance and a government that is advocating electoral chaos.

Sahil K (not verified)    October 3, 2020 - 11:04AM

I'm a long time toyota customer, so I'm fairly biased towards toyota. But I've gotta say, it's sad to see Toyota failing to keep up with technology in 2020. It's the main reason why I won't be sticking to toyota in the future.

Cole (not verified)    October 3, 2020 - 12:04PM

This isn't news; it's propaganda. I understand your numbers as facts, but they aren't comparable. The headline is comparing cars that aren't in the same class, two different car types (hybrid vs electric) and the companies have two different markets. Toyota is well know around the world and Tesla is still emerging. So what are you trying to prove other than incite your base to thinking PHEV are more important?

John Goreham    October 3, 2020 - 9:22PM

In reply to by Cole (not verified)

I'm sorry the point was not apparent. The reason this story was written was to clarify the delivery rate of one of America's fastest-selling new green vehicles. More specifically, to compare the volume available immediately after its launch to other very successful green vehicles of a variety of types. Including BEVs, EREVs, and other PHEVs. The Teslas are all by far the most successful, so they earn a spot in the story title. Titles are restricted by character at every publication. What the data show pretty clearly, is that this new Toyota's launch is at least as rapid, and as high in volume, as every other green vehicle, and much higher in volume than the ones we should all agree are the most successful in green vehicle history (the Teslas). The underlying theme was then to have the reader conclude that Toyota must be serious about this vehicle if it launched it so successfully. As opposed to sending out an unusually low volume which the reader could then conclude meant this was just another "compliance car." And Toyota pulled this off during the worst downturn in new car sales history, possibly excluding 1941.

John Goreham    October 3, 2020 - 9:33PM

In reply to by Philip Wertz (not verified)

The story compares every type of electrified vehicle sales. BEVs, PHEVs, EREVs, and even hybrids are included. As to why the analysis is US only, most of our readers are from the US. We sometimes do stories with a global focus, or about other markets, but often we do limit the scope to just this one market. Setting that aside, all of the Tesla's we include in the story were only sold in the US by Tesla at launch. And the story is about launch volumes.

M. Anderson (not verified)    October 3, 2020 - 12:23PM

I'm not buying another Toyota until they make one that is propelled exclusively by an electric motor. If they want to put in a backup gas generator, that's fine by me. But, these dual drive systems just mean twice as much stuff to break.

u r a genius (not verified)    October 3, 2020 - 2:18PM

In reply to by M. Anderson (not verified)

Thank U!
You understand hybrid PHEV better than most drivers. Heck, even better than most of these bloggers and media writers, who have never even driven anything they write about.
Its all about clicks, and jobs, and fake news.

George (not verified)    October 3, 2020 - 1:48PM

A better comparison would be against the Ford Escape PHEV which has ~5 times the sales of Toyotas declared target of 5k for the Prime.

John Goreham    October 3, 2020 - 9:05PM

In reply to by George (not verified)

George, thank you for your comment. I also thought Ford was selling Escape PHEVs, so I reached out to Ford. I have a contact at the company (and this contact is crazy about green vehicles). I was surprised to receive this answer. The answer is why I did not include Ford in the story: "Thanks for reaching out - None have been sold yet. We are moving full-scale production of Escape PHEV to the 2021 model year. The first Escape PHEVs will be sold next year."