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2016 Toyota Mirai: Fuel cell vehicle on sale next year, priced at $57K (+video)

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(Read caption) Toyota rolls out world's first mass market fuel-cell car

The 2016 Toyota Mirai hydrogen fuel-cell vehicle will carry a sticker price of $57,500 when it launches in the U.S. late next year, Toyota said today.

But while the company will offer the Mirai for sale, it expects nine out of 10 buyers to take advantage of a $499 monthly lease rate instead (requiring a $3,000 down payment).

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In Japan, the hydrogen-powered Toyota will carry a price of 6.7 million yen, or $57,400 at current exchange rates.

3,000 by end of 2017

Production of the Mirai will start slowly, with just 700 to be built for global sale during calendar 2015, of which 400 are to be sold in Japan, leaving 300 for the rest of the world.

While the 2016 Mirai was originally expected to go on sale in Japan next April, Toyota now says that sales will begin on December 15 in the country.

U.S. and European sales will follow next summer or autumn, and the U.S. has been allocated 200 of the fuel-cell sedans for sale through December of next year.

All those will be sold in California, with sales in five Northeastern states to commence in the first half of 2016 as hydrogen fueling infrastructure is built out there.

But Toyota group vice president and general manager Bill Fay said the company expects to have sold 3,000 Mirais in the U.S. by the end of 2017.

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Already, he said, 1.3 million people had visited its website on the hydrogen fuel-cellcar, and the company now has 14,000 "handraisers" who've indicated they want to learn more.

The Mirai qualifies for a $8,000 Federal income-tax credit, along with a $5,000 purchase rebate from the state of California.

Customer engagement key

It's also eligible for a "white sticker" that allows the car to use carpool lanes in California with only a single occupant, a major incentive in the state's legendarily epic rush-hour traffic.

Toyota plans to focus heavily on the customer experience for Mirai owners, Fay said, to make sure that "the only thing early adopters will have to worry about is how to answer all the questions they'll get from their neighbors.

"The Mirai will come with free roadside assistance, access to a live 24-hour concierge service whose assistants are specially trained on fuel-cell vehicle issues, and three years of free maintenance.

Toyota also intends to provide free hydrogen fueling for the first three years, as Hyundai now does for lessees of its Tucson Fuel Cell crossover utility vehicle.

The company will warranty all fuel-cell components for eight years or 100,000 miles.

And it will make further announcements closer to next fall's launch on the specific dealers that will carry the Mirai, delivery details, and other aspects of launching its first hydrogen fuel-cell vehicle.

Meanwhile, Fay said, he's challenged his sales staff to sell every one of the initial U.S. allocation of 200 Mirai cars before they arrive in the country.

Toyota provided airfare, lodging, and meals to enable High Gear Media to bring you this first-person report.

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