June 8, 2023

The brand new, fifth-generation Toyota Prius prioritizes fashion and efficiency alongside effectivity. That was a serious change for the corporate that for the 4 earlier generations had solely been centered on probably the most environment friendly journey doable, which was historically linked to fuel mileage.

“There’s an attention-grabbing background that’s not typically understood by the general public. We do not really construct hybrids to be gasoline environment friendly,” Paul Williamsen, product schooling supervisor, Lexus School instructed Newsweek. “That’s not an goal of the engineers. What we construct are hybrids which have the bottom doable tailpipe emissions. We make a fuel-efficient engine after which we use it beneath the fewest doable circumstances.”

Toyota nonetheless does that, however what has modified is the messaging.

The launch of the brand new Prius hybrid and Prius Prime plug-in hybrid electrical car (PHEV) is the primary time Toyota wholly switched up its message on the mannequin line.

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The primary-generation Prius premiered in Japan in 1997 at a time when few knew what hybrids had been. In 2000 it went international, turning into the world’s first mass-produced gasoline-electric hybrid automotive, and got here to the U.S. with a retail value of simply $19,995.

Within the period of the Y2K panic, NSYNC recognition and the dot-com growth, Toyota needed to educate patrons. The Prius did not must be plugged in to work. The corporate developed a dialogue with early adopters leading to a pool of over 40,000 potential patrons that got early entry to the Prius microsite and its special-order characteristic.

Earlier than it arrived in showrooms on June 30, 2000, Toyota already offered 1,800 Prius autos through on-line requests (one other pioneering concept).

Just a few years after, celebrities had been driving the second-generation Prius all through Los Angeles and into paparazzi and press photographs

“We bought guys like Jeff Goldblum and Ed Begley Jr. We took over media occasions and issues in Hollywood with a inexperienced carpet the place individuals who confirmed up in a Prius may go to a particular lane and valet. And a few of these early adopters actually helped to maneuver it alongside,” stated Williamsen.

It took till Could 2008 to promote 1 million Prius autos worldwide, proper earlier than the third era debuted. Toyota moved manufacturing of the brand new Prius to america at the moment and centered its advertising efforts, on billing the Prius as an “Eco-Icon”, focusing solely on effectivity.

It was the primary Prius to get an official Environmental Safety Company-estimated gasoline mileage score of fifty miles per gallon (mpg) mixed. Energy went up however zero-to-60 mile per hour time clocked in at slightly below 10 seconds.

It obtained a slight exterior redesign, maintaining that recognizable however quirky look. However Toyota’s CEO was about to institute a serious change on the firm that might have an effect on the Prius.

“I feel it was about 10 years in the past, Akio Toyoda put out an edict that he was actually pushing all the portfolio for no extra boring vehicles. And this can be a sluggish evolution. These platforms take time to evolve by way of the product cadence, however this could be the newest evolution of that, transferring away from a really utilitarian automotive to one thing that might elicit some ardour from a complete slew of patrons,” Tom Kretschmann, senior product know-how schooling planner at Toyota instructed Newsweek.

Due to that, by the point the fourth era was launched for the 2016 mannequin yr, Toyota was beginning to flip the nook. The Prius had contemporary, sporty touches from the automotive (extra energy and a greater suspension) to its commercials. A Tremendous Bowl advert in 2016 had the Prius as a financial institution robber getaway automotive with the driving force proclaiming, “it is fairly quick.” Nonetheless, it did not utterly shed its picture with the dangerous guys solely escaping when the police vehicles began operating out of fuel.

2023 Toyota Prius
The 2023 Toyota Prius is available in common and Prime variants.
Toyota Motor North America

In its newest era, Toyota has made the Prius all in on the issues it was by no means identified for: fashion and pace. Energy went up once more to 194 horsepower (hp) on the usual mannequin and 220 on the Prius Prime. The general design is an entire departure from every little thing within the Prius’s previous, however is the overall, slippery form of the earlier autos.

“Up till the fifth era, the principle focus was effectivity. The brand new focus fashion after which efficiency on the Prius and efficiency then fashion on the Prius Prime. After which we’re selecting up on the effectivity from there. So, the purpose is to herald a brand new viewers,” Thomas Sondej, senior planner for Toyota Product Schooling instructed Newsweek.

“Clearly, we need to retain and hold the present loyalists excited and provides them a brand new driving expertise with Prius. However we additionally wished to herald a brand new, youthful viewers with the styling and fun-to-drive issue. That was the purpose with the redesign,” he stated.

The success of the messaging stays to be seen. Thus far within the first quarter Toyota has moved half as many Prius autos as final yr on the similar time. Nonetheless, the 40-mile all-electric vary Prius Prime goes on sale in Could giving extra vary to one of the vital recognizable hybrid nameplates on the earth.

Toyota additionally defined that “as a result of full mannequin changeover there was a ramp down interval of the earlier mannequin leading to diminished Prius gross sales for the primary quarter of 2023. Second quarter Prius gross sales quantity is anticipated to be at regular ranges similar to the second quarter of 2022.”