Despite the electric vehicle craze fueled by the launch of the Nissan Leaf and Chevrolet Volt, the popularity of the Toyota Prius hybrid seems to be unwavering. After a decade on the market, no other hybrid vehicle has come close to outselling the Prius, and consumers are still enamored with the third generation’s 51 mpg city/48 mpg highway rating.
Last year, even despite a string of bad news for the automaker, Toyota sold a staggering 140,928 Prius hybrids at dealers like Toyota Dealer Salem– up 36 percent over 2009. Still, Toyota is looking to broaden the popular hybrid’s appeal. That’s why Toyota just unveiled new additions to the Prius family at the 2011 Detroit Auto Show.
“With nearly one million sold in North America over the last 10 years, it has the highest brand awareness of any hybrid vehicle,” said Bob Carter, group VP and general manager. “Prius has become to hybrids what Kleenex is to tissues and Levis are to jeans.”
The first new Prius model to arrive is the Prius V. The “V” stands for versatile, as it’s essentially a larger Prius wagon. This model features the same Synergy Hybrid Drive system we’re all familiar with, and it helps the Prius V deliver 42 mpg city, 38 mpg highway. The Prius V will arrive in showrooms this summer for a base price that’s expected to be slightly higher than the standard Prius’ $22,800 price tag.
“The Prius V is an all-new dedicated hybrid vehicle, and all future Prius family members will be as well,” said Carter. “They will all share common Prius attributes but will be unique, with a special appeal to different buyers.”
Toyota also showed off the sporty Prius C Concept. This model is aimed at urban commuters looking to maximize fuel efficiency. While technically a concept, this model is expected to arrive in showrooms in early 2012 and it will be the most “value-oriented” offering in the Prius lineup.
Last but not least, the Toyota Prius Plug-In will round out the lineup. This model has been in testing for some time, but it will finally arrive in showrooms in the first half of 2012.
The Prius Plug-In will be able to traverse 13 miles on electric power alone at speeds up to 60 mph. Recharging the lithium-ion battery will require just 3 hours at 110 volts and about half that at 220 volts. After the electric power is depleted, the Plug-In will continue to operate as a standard Prius hybrid. Toyota promises this model will balance the best of both worlds; the superior fuel economy of the Prius with added EV driving capability.
According to Boston Toyota Dealers. as more automakers catch up to the hybrid leader in terms of technology and mpg, Toyota recognizes it has to change its strategy. Toyota’s market research suggested that consumers ultimately want more choices when it comes to the Prius, so that’s exactly what Toyota is going to deliver.