Toyota doesn’t want to gloat or anything, but it’s going to make real money on its new Prius. “We reduced costs of hybrid systems for the current Prius by 50 percent from the first generation,” ToMoCo Vice Chairman Kazuo Okamoto tells Automotive News. “For the next-generation Prius, we will be able to cut costs by another half, so I think we’ve been able to ensure profitability will be similar to regular vehicles, such as the Corolla.” And though Okamoto-san comes across as lacking empathy for the plight of the American worker in these troubled times, this isn’t the case. In fact, emotion had nothing to do with Toyota’s decision to expand battery production to the United States. “It is very difficult to make the main parts of batteries outside Japan,” says Okamoto, “but we have to have battery production in North America. We just don’t know when.” Considering that the first American-built Prius is set to roll off the lines in 2010, US battery production was only a matter of time. And the fact that it should help Toyota pull down regular-car profits on the Prius is just the icing on the cake. Oh, and what of Bob Lutz’s hating on the plug-in Prius’s (theoretical) range? Okamoto confirms that plug-in Prius prototypes currently get only 8 miles of “initial EV range,” but that chasing the Volt’s (projected) 40 mile range would compromise cargo space and price point. What, that’s it? Aren’t space and cost are mere triflings, in the face of the monumental marketing achievement it will be when someday a company finally claims to sell cars that can go 40 miles without gas. I’m sorry, did I say someday?
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