Toyota bZ4X

Major Changes May Be Coming for the Toyota Highlander

Plans Revealed to Convert the Popular Three-Row SUV to EV

Currently, the only EV in Toyota’s US lineup is the bX4X. The better-known Toyota Highlander is set to join its ranks shortly.

The current Toyota Highlander comes in standard gas and hybrid configurations, but according to a recent report from CarBuzz, changes are in the works.

Plans Have Been Underway Since 2023

In 2023, Toyota confirmed plans to manufacture a three-row electric SUV in Kentucky. The automaker has upped its investments in its US plant to support assembly and plans to begin production in 2025.

In addition to upping investments in its auto production plant earlier this year, Toyota has also been constructing a second US-based facility in North Carolina. The new Toyota Highlander EV will get its batteries from an assembly line at this nearby plant.

What’s In a Name?

The decision to convert the well-known Toyota Highlander into an EV SUV may reflect a change in the automaker’s BEV naming strategy. The bX4X met with a lackluster response in the US, and experts believe the name may be to blame.

The Toyota bZ4X lacks name recognition. As the only battery-electric vehicle in Toyota’s US lineup, that might be part of the problem. Toyota has an excellent reputation for manufacturing quality hybrid vehicles, but it has yet to get the opportunity to prove itself in the realm of pure EVs.

Releasing the Toyota Highlander as an EV will allow the automaker to capitalize on the popular SUV’s existing name recognition, enticing more buyers and creating an opportunity to begin establishing a positive reputation in this field.

The Toyota Highlander Isn’t the Only EV in the Works

Although most experts now believe the Land Cruiser SE concept Toyota debuted last fall will be a precursor to the production-level Highlander EV, several other products are in the works.

Toyota is still deeply committed to hybridizing its lineup. For the 2025 model year, just two vehicles will be available exclusively as gas-only models.

While David Christ, the GM of Toyota’s US division, declined to say whether these two models will be electrified, he confirmed to CarBuzz that Toyota plans to expand the availability of plug-ins across its lineup quite quickly.

Others within the company have indicated that the Sequoia, Tundra, and Tacoma could all soon be considered for PHEV variants.

What’s the Best Option for Today’s Drivers?

Drivers who don’t want to wait for the Toyota Highlander EV to drop should note that while the current-generation SUV doesn’t have a PHEV option, it boasts a thoroughly respectable 36 combined mpg when equipped with front-wheel drive.

There’s also an important caveat. Sources within the company have indicated that the Highlander is about to become electrified, and the timing makes sense, given the last redesign was for the 2020 model year. However, there’s no guarantee that it will happen in any specific time frame.

Toyota has yet to officially confirm that it plans to switch the popular SUV to an all-electric powertrain. For now, drivers should stick with the traditional Toyota Highlander and watch for further news.

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