‘Fool cell’ Toyota Mirai trounces ‘S-curve’ Tesla Model 3

Hand made Mirai. (c) Bertel Schmitt

Last October, we raised the possibility that Tesla’s alleged mass market car, the Model 3, could be out-sold by Toyota’s not-at-all-mass-market car, the fuel-cell powered Mirai. We called that a “strong possibility,” and a Toyota tipster said “if Tesla maintains its graceful pace of some 130 a month, for sure we will have made more Mirai this year by end of December.”

As the world is well aware by now, the Model 3 ramp-up was disgraceful, and as hard as it may have tried, Tesla could report only 1,770 Model 3 as sold to (mostly in-house) customers in 2017.

Today was December and calendar year 2017 numbers day in Japan, an opportunity to ask Toyota how its Mirai has been doing.

“The final number for Mirai sales globally in 2017 was 2,739,” told me Toyota’s spokesman Jean-Yves Jault in Tokyo today. If my calculator is not mistaken, the Mirai trounced the Model 3 by 53%

The Model 3 allegedly is mass-produced by robots so fast that one soon needs strobe lights to see them. The Mirai on the other hand is truly production constrained. It is hand-made in Toyota’s Motomachi plant, on the same line where an even lower volume car was produced until late 2012, the Lexus LFA supercar. The rather small shop in the sprawling Motomachi complex has an annual capacity of 3,000 units. Toyota has no immediate intention to change the Mirai production, and if Tesla succeeds in finally getting the kinks out of the Model 3 line, the two cars will be trading places this year.

As for 2017, it is pretty embarrassing that the Model 3 has been upstaged by what Musk called an “incredibly dumb” technology. Musk famously derided fuel cells as “fool cells,” and called them “extremely silly.”

He who laughs last, laughs best, I guess.