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Toyota Triples RAV4 Prime US Delivery Rate - Taking Sales Back From Tesla

Toyota’s RAV4 Prime plug-in hybrid-electric vehicle is selling at a pace faster than expected in the United States. Its launch volume is much faster than most successful EVs.

Toyota delivered more RAV4 Prime plug-in hybrid-electric vehicles (PHEV) in Q4 than was forecasted or expected. In total, Toyota delivered 3,200 RAV4 Prime vehicles in the second two quarters of 2020 following its mid-year launch. This is a much faster ramp than Toyota had indicated the company would follow.

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

Toyota Doubles RAV4 Prime Delivery Rate
Toyota told Torque News in October that the company had delivered 960 RAV4 Prime PHEVs in its first quarter of sales. That rate of sales was faster than even the Tesla Model 3’s first quarter when introduced. In Q4, the RAV4 Prime’s second quarter of sales since its US launch, the pace was twice that of its first three months of sales. Toyota delivered 2,240 RAV4 Primes from October through December. That pace of US sales is faster than the Tesla Model 3, Chevy Volt, and Nissan Leaf had in their first six months of sales. In December, Toyota delivered more than 1,000 RAV4 Primes, showing that its rate of deliveries last month was triple that of its first few months.

Toyota RAV4 Prime Becoming the EV To Watch In 2021
The RAV4 Prime plug-in hybrid-electric vehicle has quickly gained a strong following of fans and shoppers hoping to score this hot new electric vehicle. Dealers, particularly in California, are seeing overwhelming shopper interest resulting in some dealers charging higher than MSRP and still closing deals as soon as inventory arrives.

Related Story: Tesla Owners Are Buying Toyota RAV4 Prime Plug-in Hybrids – Here’s Why

Tesla Owners Among Notable RAV4 Prime Buyers
Some notable buyers are existing Tesla battery-electric vehicle owners. This should be no surprise. Past polls we have conducted show that green vehicle shoppers generally seek out newer and better electrified vehicles as their old EVs age.

In the case of Tesla owners, it isn’t that the RAV4 Prime is a “better” EV, but rather that it offers more flexibility in situations important to SUV owners. For example, some Tesla owners who purchased a new RAV4 Prime point to the RAV4 Prime’s ability to tow for significantly greater distances and to then refuel with ease. Have you ever tried backing a BEV into a charger space while towing two snowmobiles on a trailer? Or tracked a BEV’s range drop in winter while towing? Battery-electric sport utility vehicles have a long way to go to match the winter towing abilities of a plug-in hybrid like the RAV4 Prime.

Related: Consumer Reports Says PHEVs Like RAV4 Prime Have Lower Maintenance & Repair Costs Than BEVs Like Tesla Model Y

Other owners point out that the RAV4 Prime suits their commuting needs without using any gasoline, but also offers an “unlimited range” and hybrid efficiency on long road trips with uncertain charging availability. Gasoline is available everywhere, and a RAV4 Prime owner can add about 550 miles of hybrid range in under ten minutes. Adding that much range to a Tesla BEV, if a charger is even available, takes over an hour, and requires more than one stop.

2021 Will Make Or Break The RAV4 Prime
In calendar 2021, Hyundai, Ford, Kia, Mitsubishi, and other brands have all announced that a new PHEV the size of the RAV4 Prime will be available. Toyota’s lead in the segment will only continue if its volume of sales continues to grow over time.

Toyota initially launched the RAV4 Prime in the “ZEV States” in America that offer incentives, and mimic the California green vehicle model. For the RAV4 Prime to truly make an impact, Toyota will need to expand that availability. As of today, frantic RAV4 Prime shoppers are buying out of state if their local dealer does not fall into Toyota’s list of target markets.

Toyota Hybrid Sales Skyrocket - Beats Tesla?
Toyota’s “conventional” hybrids, meaning those without a plug, have also taken off. The RAV4 Hybrid continues to be a top-selling vehicle, not just in the context of green vehicles, but by any measure. Toyota sold just under 116,000 RAV4 Hybrids in 2020. Amazingly, Toyota and Lexus hybrid sales went up by 22% in 2020 to over 336,000 units. Tesla doesn’t publish its US sales numbers normally. We hope they make an exception this quarter. GoodCarBadCar estimates that through the end of Q3 Tesla's US deliveries were about a quarter-million vehicles. It would be interesting to see which company is the leader in US green vehicle sales. We suspect it remains Toyota despite the recent success of the Tesla Model Y.

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


DeanMcManis (not verified)    January 6, 2021 - 3:45AM

Not sure that Toyota's RAV4 Prime sales have much to do with Tesla at all. People seem to forget that the BIG market opportunity for PHEVs and EVs growth is replacing gas vehicles, which own 95% of the new car market. Toyota themselves were limiting RAV4 Prime sales by not producing enough of them and by dealers jacking up the prices. The RAV4 Hybrid has enjoyed solid sales. Largely because the Hybrid option is only $2,500 over the regular RAV4. But the RAV4 Prime costs nearly $10K more than the Hybrid model, and dealers are jacking the price even higher because of limited supply. If Toyota had the same $3,500 price difference between the RAV4 Hybrid and RAV4 Prime, as they do between the Prius and Prius Prime, and then made enough of them to keep dealer markup down, they would sell 10 times as many of them, and really shake up the crossover market.

James Dowling (not verified)    January 6, 2021 - 11:01AM

In reply to by DeanMcManis (not verified)

I totally agree with Dean. Dealer greed is hurting the big picture and image of Toyota. Maybe if they ramp up production and increase availability, prices will stabilize. I refuse to pay ridiculous dealer mark up. Dealers could care less when demand is high.

DeanMcmanis (not verified)    January 6, 2021 - 1:45PM

In reply to by Dan (not verified)

I am not forgetting the federal and state subsidies, but Toyota definitely also figured that into their pricing, adding $10K to the price, but then with limited availability and dealer gouging, it makes the RAV4 Prime less competitive.

Dan (not verified)    January 6, 2021 - 10:14PM

In reply to by DeanMcmanis (not verified)

Nothing new it was the same pricing system with the GEN 2 Prius when the tax credit was available. There are many dealers currently selling RAV Primes at MSRP including the largest Toyota dealer in the country. There is also a system that has been in place for a long long time, it's called supply and demand. It is regrettable that some dealers are doing the bump but they do it because it works. If you actually spend time searching you will find one at MSRP or less.

Steve Badger (not verified)    February 28, 2021 - 12:04AM

In reply to by Dan (not verified)

I just bought rav4 prime se from a dealership in Victor CA and I am an out of state buyer. I paid just above msrp because they added an alarm system and other anti theft measures. I am also a model3 owner. Other dealerships were asking $10,000 above msrp.

Michael Hutcheson (not verified)    January 6, 2021 - 9:36PM

In reply to by DeanMcManis (not verified)

Good points. Most of their sales probably come out of Toyota's ICE/hybrid hide and the rest from the same market segment. Panamera sales plummeted 70% when they introduced the Taycan and the ID.3/4 are doing the same to the Golf, etc. A zero-sum game at best for the ICE world.

John Goreham    January 8, 2021 - 2:54PM

In reply to by Michael Hutcheson (not verified)

I don't disagree that many RAV4 Prime owners were also considering the Venza or RAV4 Hybrid, they speak about it in the forums. However, the RAV4 line is the top-selling nameplate in America after Ford's F-Series and Chevy's Silverado Series. Both of which enjoy enormous commercial sales. The RAV4 outsells all of Tesla by roughly 2 to 1 in America, and the model is larger in sales than many popular brands. The RAV4's US sales in 2020 were roughly equivalent to all of Tesla's, all of Buick's, and all of Cadillac's combined. Over 430,000 units.

John Goreham    January 9, 2021 - 8:56AM

In reply to by DeanMcManis (not verified)

Yes, Tesla delivered 500K units globally in 2020. Just under, but who's counting? And roughly 204,000 in the US in 2020 according to Clean Technica. We'd know the exact numbers, but Tesla doesn't say. So, Toyota's Highlander, Tacoma, RAV4, Camry, and Corolla each outsell the combined volume of Tesla in America. This link is the best estimated Tesla sales breakdown I can find:

DeanMcManis (not verified)    January 11, 2021 - 3:01AM

In reply to by John Goreham

It is no surprise that Toyota sells many cars, even many hybrids. But in the U.S. zero BEVs. Every EV automaker has been working to break EVs out of being a niche product, and competing equally against fossil fueled cars that dominate our roads. 200K EVs in America is small compared to gas powered vehicles. But it's growing at dramatic rate. You and I both agree that part of that transition from the last century's total control of the automotive market with gas-only vehicles, is moving to a future of electrified vehicles includes hybrids, PHEVs, and BEVs. I support and applaud Toyota's efforts in hybridizing their automotive fleet, but they do need to move more rapidly towards building BEVs to remain an automotive leader.

John Goreham    January 11, 2021 - 8:05AM

In reply to by DeanMcManis (not verified)

The US BEV market has been flat for three years. I hope that it does grow at a dramatic rate in 2020, but no automaker I'm aware of seems to be indicating they will sell many more than last year. Maybe Tesla. Maybe Ford. Who else? The Leaf is all but dead.

Steve P (not verified)    February 2, 2021 - 12:42PM

In reply to by DeanMcManis (not verified)

I agree also- in fact I refuse to pay over MSRP and recently ordered the MACH E because the pricing is similar without the price gouging by the Toyota dealerships. The RAV 4 prime is a home run and Toyota is missing out by letting there dealers overcharge for the vehicle.

Tin (not verified)    March 30, 2021 - 12:23PM

In reply to by DeanMcManis (not verified)

The demand has slowing down. There are inventory left and most dealers are currently willing to sell Prime as MSRP instead of a markup. If you're not in a rush, just wait and don't let the dealers taking advantage of you. They're violating the Unfair Trade Act by adding a premium to the MSRP. Lawyers love to take your case since they know dealers got pretty of $$$.

sjp (not verified)    March 30, 2021 - 12:36PM

In reply to by Tin (not verified)

I am waiting- I see dealer inventories increasing everywhere. With the fully electric vehicles starting to hit the showrooms at basically the same price as the RAV 4- prices will come down to earth soon

Michael Wolf (not verified)    January 6, 2021 - 12:29PM

Toyota actually screwed up on this by not meeting demand for the Prime. When it was announced last year, the anticipated demand was through the roof. Then Toyota laid an egg by not providing enough inventory. They would have sold 3-4 times as many Primes if they'd have made them. That was when they didn't have much competition for a midsize PHEV SUV. Now they've got competition that will siphon off sales...bad timing.

Bobby (not verified)    January 6, 2021 - 3:03PM

In reply to by Michael Wolf (not verified)

I agree completely. I am a prospective buyer and there isn't even enough inventory for a test drive in my metro area. I'm interested in buying the Prime now, but it's not urgent given reduced driving needs under COVID. In other words, I would probably have bough the car already if it was easy. Since it's not easy, there's a chance that I will buy another car when COVID ends. That's my anecdote, but I can hypothesize that I'm not the only one.

John (not verified)    January 6, 2021 - 3:05PM

What happened to Toyota and all the big car manufacturers being able to flip a switch and overwhelm Tesla with competitive plugins? Comparing Toyota's output to 1st half of Model 3 is laughable.

Merlin Valencia (not verified)    January 6, 2021 - 3:54PM

Toyota giving the people what they want! If no other manufacturer can deliver better than the RAV4 prime this year I'll have a RAV4 prime in my garage. More reliable and useful than a Tesla.

DeanMcManis (not verified)    January 6, 2021 - 6:42PM

In reply to by Merlin Valencia (not verified)

The RAV4 Prime will be very competitive, once availability goes up and pricing drops. But it is hardly the only excellent crossover out there. I also wouldn't agree that it is more reliable and useful than the Tesla Model Y. It's more a matter of your tastes, budget, and needs being a good fit for the vehicle. I hope that Toyota gets out of their own way and allows the RAV4 Prime to compete. Because it is a solid design. 2021 will be bringing more crossover and EV competition, and Toyota would have been smarter to come strong out early (like the Model Y and Mach-E have) to stake out their spot in this growing EV market before it gets too crowded.

Michael Hutcheson (not verified)    January 6, 2021 - 8:31PM

This takes NO sales from Tesla. No one considering a Tesla would buy a cheap little PHEV with all the disadvantages of ICE and just a little more mileage which according to analysis they rarely take advantage of because they drive it like ICE.
More emissions, less mileage, more expensive fuel, less safety, less efficient packaging, less performance, less resale, less ADAS, no OTA, no possible FSD. Anyone who buys one of these that can afford a Tesla will have a dramatically less capable car that will have a higher 5 year and lifetime cost.

Paul Crocker (not verified)    March 2, 2021 - 8:07PM

In reply to by Michael Hutcheson (not verified)

"NO sales" is hyperbole. I thought my next car might be a Tesla, but I ended up reserving a Prime. The lack of the $7,500 tax credit and the limitation of not having an ICE back-up are issues. 90% of my trips are well within the 20 mile round-trip electric radius of the Prime. A few times a year, though, I take the kids on some driving/camping trip that might have me far from a charger for a while, and the PHEV could be handy. I did the math on renting an SUV for those trips, but it's just inconvenient. Also note some of the challenges in getting maintenance on a Tesla, and it just seems like the Toyota is going to be an easier experience. As for safety, my wife has seen too many "autopilot crashes a Tesla into a wall" videos to convince her that safety favors a Telsa.

James Graves (not verified)    January 24, 2021 - 11:13AM

In reply to by Britton Robbins (not verified)

Have you run across anyone that managed to install it on the Rav4 Prime yet? I have a Prime, and would love to get it, but I haven't seen where anyone managed to successfully install it yet, and it still ins't showing up as supported on their website.

Luther Renfroe (not verified)    January 7, 2021 - 10:31AM

I am one of thousands that would have bought a Rav4 Prime if available in 2020. Now, it is a wait & see what is available in 2021.

BruceW (not verified)    January 7, 2021 - 5:20PM

In terms of price, you want something for nothing. The Rav4 Prime has uprated electric motors from the Highlander SUV, has much bigger and denser batteries than the Rav4 Hybrid and does 0-60 in less than 6s. My understanding is the delay is due to uprated battery availability.

Dan (not verified)    January 26, 2021 - 11:35PM

Um, I don't think that 2021 sales will make or break the RAV4 Prime; it'll do well for years to come. It's perhaps the best all-around vehicle that Toyota has ever made, and by a long shot. Also, why is the Prius Prime not in the list of statistics in this article? It hasn't been discontinued, has it?

John Goreham    January 27, 2021 - 10:30AM

In reply to by Dan (not verified)

I think Toyota just forgot to break the Prime out of the Prius Hybrid family. You make good points about the RAV4 Prime. What I was trying to convey was that Toyota really needs to produce the promised 25K units in the first two model years for the model to be a meaningful addition to a company that has a long list of models that sell in the range of 25K per month. Thanks, Dan.

ctuna (not verified)    January 30, 2021 - 9:23PM

Walked into the dealership in San Jose today they wanted 10k over msrp.
Said no thanks . I have seen them advertised at 20k over Msrp.
Cars I would consider Model Y , Rav 4 Prime , Pacifica Hybrid Van.
Y would loose to much mileage with boards on racks , also harsh ride but amazing acceleration . Van would be great for carrying boards without racking.
Toyota has a more flexible hybrid system with greater EV only mileage.
To bad it's made of unobtainable at a reasonable price.