Toyota unveiled two new vehicles today that extended its single-vehicle Prius brand to a “family” of models that now includes a larger Prius and Toyota’s first plug-in hybrid.
And showing that it has a sense of humor, the brand's marketers played on consumers' confusion over what to call "a family of Priuses (Prium? Prii?)" with the video above to kick off "our search for the proper plural, but the ultimate decision is up to you." Cast your vote at toyota.com/priusfamily, and the winner will be announced on Feb. 20th.
Speaking today at the Detroit Auto Show, Toyota US GM Bob Carter said that the company is re-intensifying its dedication to the hybrid segment overall. He said that Toyota plans to add 11 new hybrids to its worldwide product lineup over the next 23 months, including seven models that are all-new.
Prius may have had problems finding buyers over the last couple of years of relatively quiet gasoline prices, but recent jumps have quickened the interest of American consumers in hybrids again. December sales of Prius in the U.S. were a record for any winter month.
And exact timing aside, extending the Prius sub-brand gives Toyota its best chance yet to plumb its “mystique and persona,” Carter said. “Prius has the highest brand awareness of an hybrid, with almost one million sold. The brand is like Levis with jeans, or Kleenex and tissue.”
Prius V – for “versatility” (for young, active families) – has 60% more cargo space than the current third generation of the original Prius hybrid, Carter said. Yet it offers the same emissions reductions as the current Prius. The new Prius has “comfortable seating for five” and is aimed especially at young families who like the vehicle’s green credentials but wanted more interior room as well;, he explained.
Stylistically, the vehicle resembles some of the smaller crossover-utility vehicles already on the market. It has a squared-off rear end and a low, broad, rectangular-shaped hatch for easy access.
Prius V also will feature a standard back-up camera and a moonroof made of lightweight resin. It will be the first Toyota equipped with the widely hailed Entune infotainment system that the company introduced last week at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas.
Toyota also introduced a third member of its broadened Prius line, the Prius Plug-In. The vehicle will get about 13 miles on battery power alone, at speeds up to 60 mph. Then the Prius hybrid power-train system takes over and the vehicle functions much like today’s Prius. It will be on sale sometime during the first half of 2012, Carter said – first in the 14 U.S. states where 60 percent of today’s Prius units are sold, then everywhere else in America within a year of its introduction.
And Toyota introduced yet another addition to the Prius family: Prius-C, a concept car that represents “a vision of” a small-end Prius that the company plans to launch in the first half of 2012, Carter said.
Interesting to see Toyota double and triple down on Prius after a couple of uninspiring sales years. But with gasoline prices seemingly headed to $4 a gallon again, Toyota’s timing could be golden.