Lexus and Toyota to enter South African electric car market in 2025

In contrast to several automotive giants fully embracing electric cars, Toyota is adopting a more cautious stance towards the future of motoring. Toyota Chairman Akio Toyoda recently expressed his belief that the market share for full battery electric vehicles (BEVs) is unlikely to exceed 30%, regardless of technological advancements.

While Toyota is diversifying its focus with investments in hydrogen innovations and further hybrid development, the company remains committed to full electric vehicles. The goal is to produce 3.5 million electric vehicles annually by 2030, despite a measured approach to BEVs.

This approach is reflected in Toyota South Africa (TSAM), where the electrification process has been slow due to various factors such as load shedding and high tax rates on battery vehicles. However, TSAM has announced its entry into the electric vehicle market starting in 2025, as revealed by Leon Theron, Senior Vice President of Sales and Marketing, during the recent State of the Motor Industry (SOMI) event at Kyalami.

TSAM is currently preparing its dealers to support the sale of BEVs, with the Toyota bZ4X and Lexus RC being considered for the South African market. These models are built on Toyota’s dedicated BEV platform, eTNGA, ensuring a robust and space-efficient structure with a low center of gravity.

The Toyota bZ4X, available in front-wheel drive and all-wheel drive variants overseas, offers power outputs of 150kW and 265Nm for the former and 160kW and 337Nm for the latter. With a 71.4 kWh lithium-ion battery, the front-driven model boasts a range of up to 516km, while the AWD version offers 470km.

The Lexus RZ 450e, sharing the eTNGA architecture with the Toyota models, presents a more upscale option. Positioned between the current Lexus NX and RX crossover models, the BEV features a twin-motor drivetrain with combined outputs of 230kW and 434Nm, achieving a 0-100km/h time of 5.3 seconds. With the same battery pack as the bZ4X, the RZ claims a WLTP range of up to 435km.

While Toyota plans to expand its electric vehicle range in South Africa, including a potential battery-powered Toyota Hilux for specific markets like Thailand, TSAM will continue to emphasize hybrid vehicles. In 2023, TSAM dominated 53% of the New Energy Vehicle (NEV) market in South Africa, with the Corolla Cross hybrid accounting for 55% of these sales. Additionally, 42.5% of all Lexus sales in the region belong to the NEV category.