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]