Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Lexus Video Attacks the i3. Uses Photoshop to Hide the Truth?

Well I guess you can't blame them for trying. Desperate times call for desperate measures, they say. Lexus is at it again with their anti-EV advertising and this time they made a direct attack on the BMW i3. Still it's a little surprising that they seem so obsessed with pointing out why you don't want to buy an EV, instead of telling you why you would want to buy one of their hybrids. It seem to me that it's kind of like when a politician has nothing good to say about themselves, so they run their entire campaign on spreading FUD about their opponent. Let me recap what has led up to this latest attack.

Back in May Lexus put out some questionable information and videos on their consumer website that was highly criticized for having incorrect content regarding electric vehicles. In fact the information was so outdated and incorrect that it brought about a response from Plug In America:

Hey, Toyota, the 1990s called. They want their outdated anti-EV attack ad back. Plug-in electric vehicles charge while you're sleeping at home, far more convenient than making a trip to a gas station and coming away smelling like carcinogens. Driving on electricity costs about one fifth what it costs to drive the average gas car and about a third what it costs to drive the most efficient hybrid. An electric drive has smooth, instant acceleration which can't be matched by any gasoline engine. If you don't believe me, just ask anyone driving a Toyota RAV4 EV.  (disclosure: I am currently a board member of Plug In America)
Lexus got the message and a company spokesman pulled the incorrect information from their website and issued an apology. However about four months later they ran an ad that showed a lonely EV charging station, alone in a dark parking lot with the 8 steps to driving electric:
1) Closely monitor charge status
2) Turn off A/C and radio to conserve power
3) Download app to locate charging stations
4) Get lost searching for charger
5) Experience surge in range anxiety
6) Finally find charger
7) Plug in and wait four hours
8) Repeat

OK, so after it was clear this was a full-on mudslinging campaign, and certainly an indication Lexus was worried about the pressure they were getting from their electric competition. So now they put out this five minute long video, aimed at showing how miserable it would be to take a BMW i3 on a long drive. I'm not arguing the fact that the i3 isn't the perfect road trip vehicle, and using the BEV version would make a 300+ mile trip an adventure of sorts, especially today without the availability of DC quick charge stations. However it's kind of silly to think someone would head off into the desert on a 302 mile trip with an 81 mile EV without thinking about it first. That would be like taking a smart car on a fishing trip up a dirt-road mountain, knowing you have to cross a few streams and rocky passes along the way. Horses for courses, they say. In any event, yes we know the BEV i3 would take a long time to make this 302 mile trip, but how about if the i3 they used had the optional range extender?
It's very hard to see in this screen shot, but the outline of the top of the gas filler door is right behind the guy on the right, about waist high. If you watch the video and pause it at the 4.23 mark, you can see it better.

 *Hat tip to Inside EVs reader Martin B. He was the first one to notice the outline of the gas filler door in the video.

While it still wouldn't be the perfect vehicle for this type of trip, the i3 REx  could have done it much faster than the BEV i3. Yes, they would have had to stop five times to fill up the tiny gas tank, but since it's so small, it only takes about two minutes total (I've timed it!) for a gas station pit stop. So figure about 10 to 20 minutes added to the trip as compared to the Lexus hybrid. However as depicted in the video they took a BEV i3 by mistake, not knowing they'd have to stop to plug it in right? Maybe not. If you watch the video very closely, at the 4.23 mark for a brief moment you can see the top edge of the gas filler door just as one of the actors moves. So Lexus actually used an i3 REx for at least this scene and perhaps the entire video. Could they have used multiple i3's or did they photoshop out the gas filler door for most of the video, but missed it on this one brief scene. To me, that makes it so much more egregious. If the car they were driving in the video actually could have done that road trip without any issue, and Lexus lied about its capabilities, photoshopped out the evidence and presented it as incapable of making the trip in a reasonable time frame then they should be taken to task.
In this picture you can also see the corner of the gas filler door. It is difficult to see here in this low-res picture but when enlarged the corner of the filler door is clear to see.
While Lexus has indeed been spreading electric vehicle FUD for a while now, this is definitely a step up in intensity. Perhaps they took a look at October's sales data and realized for the first time since its launch six months ago, the BMW i3 outsold the CT-200h in the US. How could such a crippled, limited-range car that costs $10,000 more than their hybrid outsell it? Could Toyota actually have been wrong about EV's? Do people actually want them? Whatever the case it's clear Toyota is very concerned and has resorted to scare tactics in an attempt to steer people from buying EV's and lead them to their hybrids. Good luck with that Toyota.

One last comment. I've owned seven Toyotas in my life, and currently own a 1999 Tacoma which I use to plow my driveway and parking lot, and haul large items for my restaurant. However I'm done with them. I can't support a company that has such an anti electric vehicle stance as they do, going as far as lying about them and continuously reciting the rhetoric that nobody wants them. So I have this question for Toyota: If nobody wants them, why are they outselling your hybrids?

First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win.
-Mahatma Gandhi


  1. What I want to know is why BMW is partnered with Toyota (and Lexus by association) if their company goals and views aren't in alignment? Seems a bit out of sorts for BMW to be co-developing technology while Toyota is actively seeking to put said technology down!
    Just my $.02

  2. Clearly a Photoshop job. BMW should go after Lexus for this. This is as bad as what Top Gear did to Tesla.

  3. It does look like the flap of shame. Can't think of any other reason there would be a line there.

    1. Correct, it's definitely the Freedom Flap you see there :)

  4. “That would be like taking a smart car on a fishing trip up a dirt-road mountain, knowing you have to cross a few streams and rocky passes along the way.”


  5. Toyota/Lexus has always (since the 2000s) had a terrible advertising strategy. This is no surprise.
    That aside - it's wrong to say the REx could have done a 300 mile highway trip "with no problem". You cannot safely drive the REx, on North American highways, period.
    By safe, I mean at 75-80mph, for longer than a few minutes.
    I tried it for 3 days on a loaner. It doesn't work. The i3 will slow down to a crawl (~30-40mph) because at that speed you will exceed the ability of the REx to keep the battery charged.

    There are also reports of the REx overheating and requiring a cool down period.

    So, no, I wouldn't take the REx on a 300 mile journey.

    Also, the fact that the i3 outsold the CT200h, assuming that's correct, is not surprising. The CT is a 4 year old design, while the i3 is new. New cars will always outsell in the first year, then sales will decrease as the platform ages.
    Comparing a newly released CT with the i3 would be the only way this type of comparison would make sense.

    1. I'm not sure where you need to drive 80 mph to feel "safe". I have an i3 REx and have driven it about 400 miles on the highway so far with the range extender running and it has performed perfectly. Yes, I stay under the REx sustaining-limit of 75 mph while I'm doing so and I have never, ever felt unsafe driving 70 mph or so. My wife just took it on a 240 mile round trip - see two posts down without any problems. And I plan on doing a 500 mile round trip in a couple weeks. It's perfectly capable of doing so, you just need to keep it under 75mph and keep an eye on the SOC. If you see it's getting near zero, slow down a bit and the REx will get the buffer back up to 6%. No, it's not a do all-go anywhere car, but if you understand how it works and monitor the SOC, you can do just about anything with it. No, it's not the best road trip car, but you certainly use it for that in a pinch if you need to. One of the readers here even did a guest post where he took his i3 REx up 12,000 ft to Loveland Pass, Colorado which is the highest paved road in the US. It's definitely manageable if you want to make it work.

  6. What irritates me is that after more than decade of having hybrids on the road, people are still buying regular gas cars and I wonder why Toyota/Lexus is not targeting these consumers. Hey, it rides on gas only, so what is the deal? Hybrids are perfect head-to-head replacement for regular gasoline cars. With increasing traffic congestions, regular gas cars are less efficient per mile and more polluting. I am getting it if someone does not want EV, but I am not getting it when someone buys regular gas car.

  7. Hi Tom,

    Completely agree with you, by showing the i3 in the context for which it was not designed, it doesn't disprove the qualities of the i3, it simply shows Toyota's insecurity in its own vehicles. The video clearly was intended to be comedic and doesn't even succeed in that regard.

    A relevant fact might be that Toyota was an original investor in Tesla to the tune of $50 million and partnered together to develop its own electric vehicles.

    It just shows that huge companies often have departments working in opposing directions. The only thing that could have made this video sillier would be if they used the RAV4 EV instead of the i3.

  8. Shame on Toyota for their duplicity. An i3 REx certainly could have made the trip with multiple fuel stops. That said, the long climb from Baker, CA and over Halloran Summit would have less than ideal. With a low battery, I imagine they'd be ascending in the truck lane.

  9. Great blog post Tom. A very classy response to Lexus' rather slimy FUD attack.


  10. Honestly is not a discussion topic, BMW I3 is technology, class and status, Lexus is a toyota with some extras, but nice post and great information..!! Cars for sale