Portfolio diversification: two words that make investors feel all warm and fuzzy inside, the theory being that if you spread your investments across multiple types of assets, you will get improved returns and lower your portfolio’s risk. In other words, you shouldn’t put all your eggs in one basket.
However, such an approach doesn’t always guarantee success. Take Toyota, for example. For the past few decades, the Japanese manufacturer has taken a cautious approach with its ‘investments’, focusing on hybrid technology, hydrogen fuel cells and, to a much lesser extent, battery-electric vehicles (BEVs). But this conservative BEV strategy has left Toyota having to play an aggressive game of catch-up to compete with rivals like Tesla that have achieved a stratospheric rise in market value in the past two years.
Hence Toyota CEO Akio Toyoda’s announcement last December that his company would be boosting its production of BEVs, with a $35 billion (£25.8bn) investment and a commitment to building no fewer than 15 electrified models.
As development plans go, it’s a bold one, but with Toyota now estimating that increased demand will let it sell three-and-a-half million BEVs per year by 2030, rather than two million, it’s very much a case of now or never. Which brings us to the car we’re driving today: the Toyota bZ4X.
The bZ element of its name refers to the Japanese brand’s Beyond Zero electrification strategy, the bZ4X being the first of seven new pure EVs that will use the moniker; while the 4X denotes its place in the range as a compact SUV, where its numerical digit is sourced from the equivalent-sized Toyota RAV4.
The bZ4X even shares styling cues with the RAV4 (which has recently been made available with a plug-in hybrid powertrain), with its chunky black wheel-arch trims, contrasting roof and familiar silhouette. If you look closer, though, you will also be able to pick out new design details, including hammerhead-inspired air intakes, a subtle black ‘grille’ (which houses the various driving sensors) and sharply styled headlights that point to a different design language for the bZ range.
Also unique to the bZ4X is its all-new e-TNGA EV architecture. It has been developed in collaboration with Subaru (whose first e-TNGA-based EV will be the Solterra SUV), and Toyota says the stretched platform gives the bZ4X a spacious cabin and rear leg room comparable with the near-900mm offered by the flagship Lexus Lexus LS luxury saloon.
We will see if those numbers stack up later on but, on paper at least, they put the bZ4X and its Subaru sibling in direct competition with electric SUVs including the Kia EV6, Skoda Enyaq iV and Volkswagen ID 4.