auto corolla
The Corolla remains a best-seller across the years and decades for Toyota in the UAE. The hybrid version, launched last year and with a price tag of under Dh100,000, is following in the same tracks. (Pictured here is the Apex Edition.) Image Credit: Gulf News Archive

Dubai: Prices of hybrid electric vehicles in the UAE are inching closer to what their petrol versions charge – and in doing so, they are starting to hit the sweet spot with car owners. Especially with those potential owners who believe they are willing to go green with models that come well under the Dh100,000 mark.

As of now, “19 per cent of total hybrid car sales in the UAE were attributed to individuals,” said Saud Abbasi, Managing Director at Al-Futtaim Toyota. And that’s a number Abbasi is comfortable with, if one throws in another 2-4 per cent of all-electric models owned by individuals.

Sure, the vast majority of hybrid and electric vehicles are still owned and operated by government or government-affiliated entities, as well as privately-owned entities. But what the 19 per cent shows is that more individuals are willing to opt out of owning petrol run versions. Their ranks will only grow - but the fact remains that the majority of the units sold in this category are priced upwards of Dh100,000. Well upwards….

“Current owners are expected to upgrade to newer hybrid models while more people will realize the benefits of hybrid mobility,” he added. “This demand brings an opportunity for automotive manufacturers and dealerships to be a driver of change to support the UAE’s vision.”

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Go below Dh100,000

More hybrid models with showroom prices of well below the Dh100,000 mark will help accelerate change. The 2020 hybrid version of Toyota’s hugely popular Corolla starts at Dh83,900, and 16 per cent higher than the standard fuel version’s Dh71,900.

Now, convincing more buyers to opt hybrid despite that price difference will be crucial. Even then, a 16 per cent gap is more accessible than the average 25-30 per cent that base-level hybrids used to cost extra.

Abbasi reckons the premium will be worth shelling out, “considering that HEV models are not only better for the environment but also more cost-effective in the long term, thanks to their higher fuel efficiency compared to conventional models and less wear-and-tear.

“The extra power the electric motor provides allows very small engines to produce the same power output as non-hybrid engines that are double the size. Not only does this translate to cost savings, it also saves drivers a lot of time since they don’t have to refill their vehicles as much.”

Delayed rollouts?

Other manufacturers too have in the recent past spoken about bringing in price-busting hybrids/electric models that would appeal to a wider base of potential buyers. But the pandemic and the huge dent it has made on new car sales in the UAE/Gulf could force changes to launch schedules. As a troubled 2020 draws to an end, automotive sales are still moving along at a glacial pace. A few government- or other fleet sales could yet help dealerships.

Al-Futtaim Toyota, for one, is keeping full faith in its hybrid offerings, which now number five models, including the all-new Toyota C-HR and the Highlander. “This broadening of the line-up contributed to Toyota hybrid electric vehicle sales increasing by 14 per cent year-on-year,” said Abbasi.

“Despite a challenging 2020, the brand recorded an overall market share increase of 3 per cent in Q3-2020 compared to the same period last year. Over 90 per cent of hybrid electric vehicles in taxi fleets across the UAE are supplied by us.”

Government mandate

The UAE Government is targetting increased fuel efficiency of 20.8 kilometres per liter by 2028 to meet its pledge to cut down carbon emissions. “Given that they impose no change on the driver’s behavior, as they require no charging at all, hybrid vehicles are an automotive solution that help all parties contribute to having less impact on our planet,” said Abbasi. “We foresee more demand for HEVs triggered by both government policies, people’s increased eco-consciousness and expansion of our hybrid product range.”

Demand for hybrid vehicles will continue to grow - this brings an opportunity for automotive manufacturers and dealerships to be drivers of change

- Saud Abbasi of Al-Futtaim Toyota