Toyota displays a new concept electric car — developed jointly with BYD and FAW — at the Shanghai auto show in April 2023.
CNBC | Evelyn Cheng
BEIJING — Toyota this week began taking orders for its first electric sedan in China, and announced two more models are set to come to the local market next year.
The three cars are part of the Japanese car giant’s bZ, or “beyond zero” lineup of battery-electric cars. Toyota, the world’s largest automaker by vehicles sold, has been relatively cautious about investing in fully electric cars.
The bZ3 electric sedan, announced in October, received 5,000 orders Sunday after beginning sales that day, according to Toyota’s joint venture with Chinese state-owned automaker FAW. Deliveries are set to begin this year, according to an official WeChat account post.
BZ3’s battery comes from BYD, and driving range on a single charge is well over 500 kilometers (310 miles). Prices start at 169,800 yuan ($24,643). That’s down from the prior starting price of 189,800 yuan announced in December.
For comparison, BYD’s Han sedan starts at 209,800 yuan. Tesla’s Model 3 starts at 229,900 yuan in China.
Prices for Toyota’s previously released electric bZ4x SUV start at 199,800 yuan. However, the car has yet to sell at volume, while Toyota’s Rav4 was the sixth-most-sold SUV in China last year, according to the China Passenger Car Association.
At this year’s Shanghai auto show on Tuesday, Toyota held the global debut of the “bZ Sport Crossover Concept” and the “bZ FlexSpace Concept.” The company said both cars are set to launch in China next year.
The bZ sports car concept sedan is jointly developed by Toyota, BYD and Chinese state-owned FAW. For years, until the end of 2021, foreign automakers in China could not have full ownership of car manufacturing and had to work with local partners.
The bZ “FlexSpace” concept SUV is a collaboration between Toyota and state-owned GAC.
Toyota is also still developing hydrogen as a source of power. The company said at the auto show that next year, its first factory dedicated to hydrogen fuel systems outside Japan would start production in Beijing.
Sales of battery-powered and hybrid passenger cars have surged over the last few years in China, supported by government policies looking to boost the penetration of that category of new energy vehicles.
In March, that penetration reached about one-third of new passenger cars sold in the country, according to data from the China Passenger Car Association.
The association’s data showed Toyota’s China wholesale sales through joint ventures with GAC and FAW exceeded 1.8 million vehicles last year. That’s on par with top-seller BYD and second-place FAW-Volkswagen, the data showed.