Why did Toyota kill the electric car? Slow sales

There are a lot of theories about why large auto manufacturers killed off their electric cars in the '90s. GM came out with one. Ford did as well, and so did Toyota.

Some believe oil companies pressured the car manufacturers to kill the electric car lines. Others have said that once the legislative mandates got weakened, the manufacturers lost interest.

Mary Nickerson, national marketing manager for Toyota, has a different take. Customers didn't want it.

"The Rav4 EV had a 100-mile range. That range was not sufficient for most people in the marketplace," she said during the Clean Tech Investor Summit which took place this week in Palm Desert, Calif. "If it is the only vehicle in your garage, it is not enough for a typical American household."

That limited range meant it was mostly interesting to people looking for a second or third car, or an in-town car. But even then, sales were low. "The number of people who closed the deal dribbled" to low numbers, she said.

Interestingly, it's similar to what Elon Musk, the PayPal billionaire and chairman of Tesla Motors, said last year when he launched the all-electric Tesla Roadster.

"Until today, all electric cars have sucked," said Musk last July.

Tech Culture
About the author

    Michael Kanellos is editor at large at CNET News.com, where he covers hardware, research and development, start-ups and the tech industry overseas.


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