• Dec 20, 2006
Many people who have seen the controversial documentary Who Killed the Electric Car? have noticed the conspicuous absence of Toyota in the crosshairs of director Chris Paine's magnum opus about failed EVs in the marketplace. Toyota was leasing the RAV4-EV, a version of the RAV4 cute ute converter to run on batteries, at the same time General Motors was offering the EV1. Detroit Free Press columnist Mark Phelan was told by Ernest Bastien, Toyota's VP of Vehicle Operations, that the movie, "was terribly one-sided." The Toyota exec went on to say, "It was not balanced at all."
Paine freely admits the movie lets Toyota off the hook, mainly because GM was a much higher profile target. There are other reasons, as well, including the fact that GM had invested much more money in developing the EV1 from the ground up, whereas Toyota merely converted its standard RAV4. For its part, GM makes itself such a willing target, too. In one instance, the filmmakers captured protestors being hosed outside of GM offices when the sprinkler system turned on. GM claims it was on a timer, but Paine disaggrees. Toyota, meanwhile, greeted protestors outside its offices with bottled water and keychains.

The story here, however, is that GM's main market rival is coming to its defense on the matter, and supporting the General's assertion that there was no market demand for EVs at the time, and that's what ultimately killed the electric car. In essence, Toyota has stepped up as a character witness for GM in the case. Does it sway Paine and his supporters? Not so much. EV advocates still claim neither company properly marketed the vehicles, and in Toyota's case, the hyped-up Prius hybrid was clearly the company's priority over the RAV4-EV.

[Source: Detroit Free Press]


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  • 24 Comments
      • 8 Years Ago
      It always amazed me that GM and Ford treated these protesters as enemies for some reason.

      When I was younger I wrote Hasbro to complain about their plans to stop (or change) their GI Joe toys. I thought their current product was vastly superior to the direction they were going. They wrote a very nice letter back -- basically saying their sales were declining and they were being forced to make changes as per what the market seemed to be telling them. I think they said plastic was actually an very expensive component, so "smaller" made a big difference in making their product competitively affordable.

      Toyota -- I complain about them -- but they sure do understand their market place well.
      • 8 Years Ago
      " All Toyota did was steal hybrid technologies from American and European companies to make their Prius and win accolades from leftist environMENTAList groups for being to the game relatively late in the game, whereas GM garners nothing but scorn. "

      You're delusional Chris. While the concept for a Hybrid ( in the sense of a vehicle having two different powerplants) is not new, the computer controls, software, compact brushless motors and durable battery packs certainly saw pioneering use in cars by Toyota. The idea for a hybrid car came out in the 60's by GM, but they didn't act on it. Why? Because it didn't fit their vision of the immediate future and saw no incentive to develop the technology.

      It's the same short-term thinking that robbed Xerox of the proceeds from Graphical User Interfaces.

      Pull your head out of your ass Chris.
      • 8 Years Ago
      Let's not give up hope - things have moved on a ways since the days of the EV1:

      http://www.celsias.com/blog/2006/12/21/the-electric-car-revisited/
      • 8 Years Ago
      Steve2, you seem to be under the impression that the tesla roadster is a straw man.

      It was never meant to be high volume, it's as much a proof of concept as a real product. The company just wants to sell enough of those to stay above water and attract investors, and they already have their next 2 or 3 major products(and a hint: they're FAR more affordable) planned and mostly if not entirely designed.

      Will they be able to bring down costs as much as they plan to? Who knows, I don't think you have any way to know unless you've already tried it, so at least give them the few years they need to ramp up production and models.
      • 8 Years Ago
      PS - "The media" didn't make this film. One person did. It represents the director's viewpoint. I thought that pretty much anyone with the intelligence of a 6th-grader would know that.
      • 8 Years Ago
      "GM's failures are seen as a threat to the American Dream."

      LMAO. So what are Polaroid, Kodak, Hamilton Watch Co, RCA, Zenith, etc. etc. failures seen as? These companies (and nearly all American manufacturing companies, remember Prouldy made in Bangor, Maine from Saucony shoes?) have failed, been bought out, declared bankruptcy and are shells of their past. Kodak digital cameras have "Designed in Japan Made in China" on them, couldn't they, the world's largest camera manufacturer at one time at least design it in America?

      GM is still #1 in sales in the world and will be #1 in U.S. sales for at least a while longer. To write of their failures as a threat to the American dream is almost criminal. Oh, yeah, IBM computer manufacturing sold to the Chinese Lenovo company, remember how they won the war so that most computers would be IBM compatible? I guess that didn't work out.

      Ignore the real failures (that's called denial, denial that our manufacturing is going faster than you can sneeze) and piss on the real successes. Our education system is failing, it is failing to teach reality along with theory and that goes for both private and public schools.


      When an American company designs in Japan and builds in China it simply states, "We have nothing special to offer you our customer". With a little cash you and I could hire someone from Japan to design us a product and with a little more it would be built in Japan.

      I don't even think Kodak will ever attempt to be a legit #1 camera company ever again from what I can tell. People just don't get it.
      • 8 Years Ago
      1. I was down on that movie from the start. My feelings were that they rode the coat tails of "Inconvenient Truth". I called it ecological opportunism and the makers econistas. No one killed the electric car. The big automakers withdraw only opened up opportunities for others. Why do "liberals" bash their own and elevate the foreign competition? What is this self destructive behavior? Bravo for Toyota for telling the truth. Shame on the filmmakers. I'm sure they don't find the truth very convenient.
      • 8 Years Ago
      Crucifying GM is a favorite past time of the leftist mainstream media. Those traitors always give Toyota a free pass, though it is clear that GM that is more committed to ethanol and fuel-cell technologies long before Toyota even showed an interest in alternative fuels and drive trains. All Toyota did was steal hybrid technologies from American and European companies to make their Prius and win accolades from leftist environMENTAList groups for being to the game relatively late in the game, whereas GM garners nothing but scorn. Toyota probably created this tempest in a teacup to malign GM and gain market share at the domestics' expense. Those sneaky bastards even colluded with anti-American and anti-capitalist forces in their bid to destroy America's auto industry whilst looking like a responsible corporate steward of the environment. Absolutely sickening.
      • 8 Years Ago
      #7 (Chris): "All Toyota did was steal hybrid technologies from American and European companies to make their Prius..."
      Verbatim quote from my post in another thread: "Which communist, fascist, or totalitarian dictatorship do you come from? In my country, the United States of America, our court system operates under the presumption of innocence until proven guilty."

      #7 (Chris): "Toyota probably created this tempest in a teacup to malign GM..."
      Did you even read what was written in the Autoblog story, or were you just too hasty to bash the Japanese? "The story here, however, is that GM's main market rival is coming to its defense on the matter, and supporting the General..." Since when is it the same thing to malign, and to support?

      #7 (Chris): "Those sneaky bastards even colluded with anti-American and anti-capitalist forces..."
      More of your usual Japanese bashing, short on facts, long on name calling: "bastards", "midgets", "Jap", ad nauseum. Whilst trying to look like a responsible patriot of the United States. Absolutely sickening.

      Sources:
      http://www.autoblog.com/2006/11/27/toyota-hybrid-exec-perishes-in-plane-crash/#c2795687
      http://www.autoblog.com/2006/11/22/toyota-tundra-production-begins/#c2746217
      • 8 Years Ago
      Ed is correct. GM is the main character and Toyota plays the supporting role in the movie. GM's involvement with EV1 was far more intensive than Toyota's with the RAV4-EV.

      The movie also, ultimately, points to the Calif. Air Resources board as the third villain.
      • 8 Years Ago
      "It always amazed me that GM and Ford treated these protesters as enemies for some reason."

      Maybe 'cuz they're idiots? GM should have soaked them in napalm.
      • 8 Years Ago
      I agree with both GM and with Toyota.

      And I agree with the guy in the film from Ford's Th!nk division who said that people said they wanted an electric car but once they got done explaining what it did and what it cost, they didn't want it anymore. For the price they were going to pay, they expected it would have longer range, more performance, more space, etc.

      GM, Toyota and Ford all faught the same problem and lost.

      GM oddly takes most of the brunt in the movie, despite actually making an electric car, and most say the best one. Why does GM get hit so hard for trying and other companies that didn't even attempt to make electric cars get off scott-free? Mainly I think it's just because they had the footage of people picketing GM and such. Ultimately, you can only make the movie you have the footage for.

      I'm sure that Paine is a big fan of the Tesla. He was at the unveiling, I'm sure. But there just aren't enough Ed Begley, Jr.s in this country to sell a lot of minuscule two seat electric cars with $50,000 worth of batteries in them. Even if the price of the car came down to $60K from $90K, it would still be a niche item.

      Look at Ed Begley, Jr. as an example. In the 90s he owned only electric cars, despite them being rather unviable at that time. He was proud he didn't buy gasoline for 10 years. What did he do in the new century? He bought an Insight, a gas-powered car. He then bragged he could drive from LA to SF and back on one tank of gas. Even Ed Begley, Jr's needs (to drive even one direction) were not fulfilled by an electric car. A man who had principles of not buying gas broke down and did.

      How much sacrifice is the population in general ready to make to get into an electric car? Not as even as much as Ed Begley, Jr.

      I think the electric car is important and the future. We can generate electricity from many sources, so we break our dependence on not just foreign oil, but any particular form of energy. But the electric car is not going to be a success (meaning replace the internal combustion car) by providing two seats and 3 cubic feet of trunk for $90,000. Not even for $60,000.

      The main problem is the price of batteries,. And selling these cars for $90K isn't going to raise the demand for batteries enough to cause an appreciable drop in price or rise in capacity to make it viable. Cell phones drive that market a lot more than a few electric cars do.
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