By on January 11, 2011

“Prius has become to hybrids what Kleenex is to tissues and Levis are to jeans.” So said Bob Carter, group VP and general manager of Toyota U.S.A. With so much brand power, it would be a waste to have only one Prius. From now on, Toyota has three. The Prius received a bigger and a smaller sibling, with the idea towards creating “a modern family with a Prius for everyone.”

The bigger is the Prius v (as in “versatile). It’s the wagon version of the Prius. They managed to keep the trademark  wedge shape (Toyota likes to call it “triangle” instead), while adding more cargo space. Full details in the press release.

The smaller sibling is the Prius c (as in, you guessed it, “compact”). While the Prius v will be available this summer, the “c” in the Prius c can also stand for “concept.” No details available, but it’s a good guess if you expect the car in 2012.

Next year, you will also be able to buy the Prius plug-in (“Prius p”?) It gives you 12 miles of pure electric range, then the gasoline hybrid kicks in.

Looks like Toyota is building a sub-brand.

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68 Comments on “Nice Family: The Prius Procreates...”


  • avatar
    Philosophil

    Given the success that the Prius has had, this is likely a very good move. You can rarely go wrong by building on your strengths.

  • avatar
    Dr. Kenneth Noisewater

    .29 Cd?  Kind of crap.  And they should all add lightness with LiPo batteries, at least as an option (perhaps offer a ‘plugin hybrid’ LiPo like the enginer.us)..

  • avatar
    mdensch

    Pretty timid steps for a company that’s been in the hybrid business as long as Toyota has.

    • 0 avatar
      psarhjinian

      Toyota, generally, isn’t a radical company.  They held onto rear-drive well into the front-drive revolution, stayed carbuerated, still use four-speeds where cost-appropriate (they used three-speeds for a long time, too) and what little they have released that was “radical” was so because it was aimed more at the Japanese market’s taste.
       
      Even the Prius isn’t that much of a departure.  When you consider that most companies took a much more radical tack on alternative powertrain vehicles, the first Prius was pretty mundane: effectively an Echo with a hybrid motor.  Everyone else was putting out futuristic jellybeans, one-off EVs, hydrogen dreamcars and so forth; the little Toyota was moderately priced, simply trimmed and not particularly special.  The second and third were evolutions that addressed the packaging and performance issues of the first.
       
      I think that, when people criticize Toyota for losing their way that they’re missing some historical perspective.  Toyota hasn’t, as long as I can recall, built cars that were all that good in terms of performance or design (every Corolla I’ve ever been in has been kind of “meh”, from 1985 onwards) but what they did, and still do, build is cars that are user-friendly and tolerant of abuse.  I’d hazard that there were years the Cavalier was better than Toyota’s equivalent and even Lexus has never really topped it’s competition but you could generally depend on the Toyota to not suffer problems or inconvenience you in any way.
       
      In that sense, the expansion of the the Prius offerings is kind of expected.  Think of it like the iPod’s branching into smaller, bigger, and much fancier offerings (Nano, Shuffle, iPhone, etc).  It’s a logical extention of a successful product to meet niches at an incremental cost

  • avatar
    Ronman

    That last sentence seems to be the truth…

  • avatar
    IGB

    The Prius is more appliance than any other vehicle in the Toyota fleet and that says volumes. The wagon makes sense. The compact less so but it does stretch the brand.

  • avatar
    Zackman

    I’d like to see a Prius Wagon, but the added weight would concern me. I do want to see one, though, to evaluate if the extra cargo room is worth it.

    • 0 avatar
      monomille

      The existing Prius already has a lot of usable interior room, partly due to its hatchback format.  Despite its outside appearance it very nearly is “mid-size” inside.   Now they have managed to integrate a larger interior into a familiar and, to me, balanced aero form without suffering from 2+2 ungainliness or Honda Crosstour bloat.  Nice, except giving up 11 combined mpg is an awful big hit and the performance which was just OK may no longer be OK for a lot more people.

    • 0 avatar
      joeaverage

      Go drive a VW Jetta Sportwagon TDI. 46 mpg on the highway despite the wagon bloat. And before you quote how bad VW has been in recent years – I’ll throw out there that I have owned VWs continuously since 1991. The dealers suck and the dealers are expensive. Find yourself an independent mechanic and some online parts sources where OEM parts are more like aftermarket auto part store prices. I wrench them myself and they seldom require must investment or frequent attention. Apparently they agree with me.
      What I’d like to see is a turbo diesel hybrid with a manual tranny…

  • avatar
    forraymond

    If the C is less family oriented, they may hit a new demographic.  C for coupe?

  • avatar
    Quentin

    C is probably compact.  The current Prius fits between a Corolla and Camry.  The V is Camry sized. 

    I intend on buying something later this year.  If practical side wins, I’ll have to think long and hard about the V.  I am a wagon junky.  But, having a 4Runner as well, do I really need the extra space* over a regular Prius?  My wife likes the Lexus CT200h which is smaller and less efficient than the Prius… but that double wishbone rear suspension, those nicely bolstered seats, and that sharp interior make me think she might be right.

    * And likely extra upfront and operating costs

  • avatar
    PeteMoran

    Perfect timing. Toyota might also build it in the US at that shiny-new plant if you’re nice to them….

  • avatar
    Domestic Hearse

    When do they bring out the off-road Prius? AKA the Prius BBB (Bad Boy Buggy).

  • avatar
    cmoibenlepro

    No pictures of the Prius C?

  • avatar
    JJ

    I don’t know, it doesn’t really seem like a good idea to me to change the ‘Prius’ into it’s own brand (as in, like Scion or Lexus). The Prius is a succes for Toyota not only because they sold a good bunch of them but maybe even moreso because it put the Toyota brand on another level in the minds of the general public. Before the Prius, what was a Toyota except a slightly blander and maybe slightly cheaper Honda? And that’s when they still attempted to make a Supra or Celica every now and then…

    With some holes being punched into Toyota’s reliabilty record, the brand needs some halo cars. And in a strange way the Prius provides them one. So I don’t think it would be beneficial for them at all to disconnect the Prius from the Toyota brand.

    Also, that is one bland looking car. Apart from the creases they put in the bonnet and the sharply edged headlights, it looks like it has been designed 10 years ago.

    • 0 avatar
      psarhjinian

      Try not to think of it as a separate brand in the Scion/Lexus sense of the word: think about Apple and Macintosh or iPod.  Both are very obviously children of the parent brand and benefit accordingly, but they also have their own distinct and significant brand identity.
       
      You see this reasonably often and with quite some success, just not in automobilia.

    • 0 avatar
      Zackman

      “You see this reasonably often and with quite some success, just not in automobilia.”

      psar: Well, you used to. The companies were GM, Ford and Chrysler, with all their distinctive divisions, but that was when things worked in this country, and have faded considerably to have their crown taken by others as you have inferred. If you mean within a brand, well, you are correct. In the past, a few appliance manufacturers did what you describe Apple has done, but usually by a separate name given to, say, a kitchen range built by a manufacturer, but offering a cheaper (decontented) model under that different name.

    • 0 avatar
      jkross22

      Zack, You’re right.  Kenmore is probably still more recognizable in consumer’s minds than Sears, and people know Frigidaire – Electrolux, not so much.  Very analogous to the Toyota/Prius comparison.

    • 0 avatar
      mdensch

      “Try not to think of it as a separate brand in the Scion/Lexus sense of the word . . .”

      Not sure how else one can think of it.  You have two new models, with more promised, all using the same brand name.  You have a nomenclature system in place that resembles Scion’s (somewhat).  And even Bob Carter talked yesterday about how Prius has become as recognizable a brand as Levis or Kleenex.  If it walks like a duck and talks like a duck . . .

    • 0 avatar
      JJ

      psarhjinian,

      Yeah by the time a got to the end of my comment I started wondering if that was what Bertel had in mind. Still, anything that would disconnect the Toyota name in some way with the Prius would be a bad move in my opinion. I think that would only make sense if, say, BMW would build the Prius and wouldn’t want to alienate enthusiasts who might not take kindly to ‘their’ brand building something that defies its traditional values. As it stands however, the Prius seems to be the quintessential Toyota though so if anything they should slather some extra Toyota badges on it.

      As for building a few extra Prius variants and calling them Toyota Prius c or Toyota Prius v I guess that’s fine but I don’t think that means the Prius is (or should be) made into a sub-brand…Unless you’d call ’3-series’ a sub-brand since they make a several different versions of it.

    • 0 avatar
      psarhjinian

      Still, anything that would disconnect the Toyota name in some way with the Prius would be a bad move in my opinion.

      I don’t think that’s Toyota’s intention, any more than Apple would intend to disconnect “iPod” from “Apple”, but I see your point about genericizing “Prius” and the risk that this poses should “Prius” go the way of “Kleenex” or “Xerox”.  I don’t think that’s as much a risk as the Prius is hardly a commodity in the way Kleenex is.

      Besides, I’m sure it would amuse Toyota (and cause Honda or GM people to grit their teeth) if the Insight and Volt were referred to as “the Honda Prius” or “the Chevy Prius”.  The last thing you want is for your competitor to define your product’s banding for you.

    • 0 avatar
      charly

      I think that Prius and Toyota will be like BMW and M. A definite sub brand but not a different brand

  • avatar
    slance66

    Ugh.  The proliferation of automotive appliances continues.  I suppose I can look at the bright side.  They are saving more gas for the rest of us to use.

    • 0 avatar
      Luke42

      As I Prius driver, I can assure you that you’re 100% correct on both accounts.
       
      As for me, there’s nothing to be gained by driving like I’m on a racetrack when I’m taking my kid to daycare, dropping my wife off at work, or going to the grocery store.  These are jobs for an appliance, and the Prius is the right tool for the job.
       
      Hopefully there will be some gas left in 20 years when my kid and I are both old enough to have some fun with it, too.  Or maybe I’ll be able to pick up a well-used Tesla Roadster for a few grand.  :-)

    • 0 avatar
      car_guy2010

      Most of the Prius hate is unnecessary.
      So, someone wants to engage in their fantasy of “saving the planet” by driving a Prius? So what? It’s not like Toyota is FORCING you to like it. If you don’t like it, fine. But don’t mock people just for the hell of it.

    • 0 avatar
      Jimal

      I have to agree. I’ve never driven or been in a Prius, but I did have an opportunity to use a Camry Hybrid as a rental car for a few days when I was in Quebec a few years back. After a while I did find myself cruising around the paddock at Le Circuit Mont Tremblant seeing how far I could go before the ICE fired up. Not my cup of tea but as a technological exercise it was certainly interesting.

  • avatar
    Dave M.

    Cool on the wagon.  Just wished the IP was in front of the driver.  Prius, Scion and Saturn Ion drivers – do you ever get used to the middle-positioned IP?

    • 0 avatar
      Thinx

      “do you ever get used to the middle-positioned IP?”
       
      Yes, in about 10 minutes on the first day I drove one.  It isn’t such a big deal.
      I now switch between the center-IP in my Prius (daily commuting nag) and the conventional-IP in my CL550 (evening/weekend) and don’t particularly find either one unnatural.

    • 0 avatar
      Luke42

      And, yes, the wagon would be a great fit, if the wife and I get busy and have another kid.
       
      OTOH, the LEAF and a conventional minivan might be a good combination, too — moving all of our around-town driving (99% of our trips) off of foreign oil woud be a very good thing.

  • avatar
    philadlj

    Don’t forget Zambonis, Cuisinarts and Band-Aids!

  • avatar
    mike978

    I was looking forward to seeing what the Prius V as going to be like since a hybrid mini MPV had a lot going for it (competitor to the Mazda 5 and Ford C-Max Grand). However the design is a major letdown. I didn`t expect beuatiful but it looks “worse” than it should – they needed to try harder.

    • 0 avatar
      MattPete

      Is it even as big as a Mazda5?  I can’t tell from the photos, as there is no context to compare it to, but it looks more like a Mazda3 5-door wagon in size.

    • 0 avatar
      Luke42

      It’s pretty big — the press release says the wheelbase is 109″, and it’s about 5’2″ tall.  I have a Ranger and 2nd-gen Prius in the driveway, and it’s much closer to the dimensions of my Ranger (almost exactly the same wheelbase, and within a couple of inches heightwise) than it is to the dimensions of the Prius.

      I’m surprised by how big the Prius V is, given that it looks so much like the existing Prius.

      Of course, the fact that I think my Ranger is a big vehicle should tell you something about my taste in cars…. :-)

    • 0 avatar
      MattPete

      I found the press release.  Compared to a Mazda5:
      Wheelbase: Prius V is roughly 1 inch longer
      Length:identical
      Height: Mazda5 is 2 inches higher
      Width: Prius V is roughly 1 inch wider

  • avatar
    Bancho

    I checked the photos for the wagon on another site and the inside really looks as if it’s got the space I had in my 2008 xB. The cargo area especially. I’d have to see it in person to be certain, but given the space efficiency of the existing Prius I’m underwhelmed by the wagon. I’d been expecting a 6/7 seat vehicle rather than just a little taller and a little more cargo room. I’m sure they’ll sell just fine though. It’s not a bad move to take a success like the Prius and start branching out. At least it’s a more structured plan than Honda’s got for their hybrids.

  • avatar
    HoldenSSVSE

    I guess I’m going to be in the minority; I like it.  There was a lot of speculation that Toyota would introduce a 6 or 7 passenger mini-minivan based on the Prius, and given its general no guts no glory driveline I was thinking the underpowered Prius would be even worse; this looks better than a Prius to me and I’ve always had a soft spot for five doors.

    I have huge concerns about Toyota building a sub-brand when they already have a sub-brand circling the drain.  Too many brands competing against each other for the same customers doesn’t work – that has been proven over and over and over again.  If I’m cross shopping a Scion iQ, a Prius c, and a Toyota Yaris I still only buy one car; but I just paid three marketing departments, and the parts, and the inventory, and the paperwork, and the customer confusion, and… (at least they all aren’t badge engineered)

    “Prius has become to hybrids what Kleenex is to tissues and Levis are to jeans.”

    Not quite.  If someone said to me, “can I have a Klennex,” or, “can you Xerox this,” or, “Google it,” I would 100% understand what they mean.  If I walked into a Honda dealer and said can you show me your Prius I’d be laughed out of the showroom.  The analogy of Levis = jeans is much better; just sayin’

    • 0 avatar
      mr_min

      I’m with you, I’ve always had a soft spot for wagons, so the styling looks ok in the photos.  I’d like to see this in the flesh before I make final judgment on the looks.
      I don’t think T are building a sub-brand as such.  This matchs the thinking behind branding strategy used elesewhere in the world.  eg Corolla Sedan, Hatchback (3D & 5D), Wagons & People mover (Verso).
      I think it shows a lack of creativity of behalf of their marketing department, especially regarding the Prius C. 
       

  • avatar
    lakeuser2002

    “Prius plug-in (“Prius p”?) It gives you 12 miles of pure electric range, then the gasoline hybrid kicks in”

    Unless you lean on the throttle too much…

  • avatar
    Hank

    “Prius has become to hybrids what Kleenex is to tissues and Levis are to jeans.” So said Bob Carter, group VP and general manager of Toyota U.S.A.

    Typical marketing crap-speak.  No one sees a Fusion, Escape, Sonata, or Civic hybrid and says, “Look, a Prius!”  People do call Puffs “Kleenex” and do call other-branded jeans “Levi’s.”  The Prius is successful, no doubt.  Levi’s it isn’t.

    • 0 avatar
      psarhjinian

      No, but they certainly could do so with the Insight and Volt.  The Prius basically set up the rules of the game for this marketspace.
       
      But yes, Levis it isn’t.  What it is is the automotive marketing version of the iPod.

    • 0 avatar
      golden2husky

      Actually, Levis used to be the pair of jeans.  Until they rested on their laurels and let the brand rot.  Sound familiar?  They totally missed the mega priced jean thing of the last 15 years.  Instead Levi Strauss chose to move their production overseas sue others for making pocket stitches that were deemed too similar to Levis.

  • avatar
    cmoibenlepro

    TTAC posted only pics of the Prius V.
    Here are pictures of the Prius C:
    http://www.autoblog.com/2011/01/10/toyota-prius-c-concept-detroit-2011/

    This is a radical design.

    By the way, according to Toyota press release, C stands for “city” not “compact”.

    • 0 avatar
      JJ

      That is a radical design and you can see some styling cues from the FT86 as well. I don’t like the huge greenhouse though, that looks kind of strange. A result of Toyota wanting to incorporate the wedge shape into a smallelr design no doubt but I think they’ll be better off if they make it look a little better, even if that means sacrificing some MPGs, especially if they’re actually thinking about marketing this to the younger generations.

    • 0 avatar
      car_guy2010

      They might need to work on the headlights a bit. Otherwise, not bad.

    • 0 avatar
      Jimal

      I dunno. I kinda like the headlights up there like that. Definitely different. Obviously a plug-in, judging by the cord underneath…

    • 0 avatar
      Sammy Hagar

      Hmmm…it’s a Toyota Mégane II.

    • 0 avatar
      joeaverage

      Honestly the biggest version looks like a very updated Citation and I don’t mean that as a put down. Would make a nice update to the Citation if the Prius was a GM product. Overall I like the look. Would require nice wheels like those to pull it off. Put ugly plastic hubcaps on it and it’s gonna look worse. I like the versatility a vehicle like that would offer (five door, reasonable size, folding rear seat).

  • avatar
    JMII

    This isn’t another brand, they are models of the same car, like a Honda Civic Wagon (5 door, extra space), Sedan (typical 4 door) and Coupe (2 door, sporty-er).
     
    The Prius v (little “V”? really? ummm OK) looks like a stretched Prius to me, I too was expecting something more along the lines of a Mazda 5 with sliding doors. Currently that’s the best packaged vehicle on the road for people that need mini-van like seating (read: kids) without the mini-van look/size.
     
    FYI the “c” in the other model stands for City not Compact… it says so on the linked press release page.
    Also the C (not cee?) looks to be along the lines of Veloster, sporty small hatchback with more then 2 doors.

    • 0 avatar
      Sammy Hagar

      The problem w/the American/Canadian version of the Mazda5 is the lackluster gas mileage: 22/28. Other than that, it’s a great car (or wagon, or MPV).

      That said, it’s too bad Toyota can’t/won’t build the “v” w/seating for six (two of those in a pinch), rear sliding doors and a fuel-efficient 40mpg engine. Are you listening Mazda? A diesel might not get you the 40mpg, but you might get close…not to mention, you are already have the engine (MZR-CD 2.2).

  • avatar
    LectroByte

     
    I don’t know if it’s really a brand or not, but it seems like not that long ago, cars came in coupe, sedan or wagon form and were named to match.   Having the nomenclature prius-c, prius-v etc. makes more sense thanCamry (4dr) and Solara (2dr) and Venza (wagon), for example.

  • avatar
    Bob12

    Three rows would have been nice, and would have made a good differentiator from the standard Prius. Of course, that would have crowded the space of the Highlander Hybrid a little, not to mention the three-row RAV4 (does Toyota actually sell any of those?).
     

  • avatar

    next in the lineup, Prius Sport??

  • avatar
    KitaIkki

    The Prius V should replace the regular Prius.  More room inside, better visibility outback, and the smaller, one-piece rear glass may actually save weight (and air-conditioning load)   What’s the downside compared to the regular version?

  • avatar
    stuki

    Man, that wagon could be a hit if we get another serious oil price spike come summer.
     
    The compact should do well, too, if they can eke out another 15-20% combined mileage from it compared to the regular Prius. Or, if that’s not possible, make it more of a pseudo “drivers car.”
     
    Aerodynamics may nix it, but looking at the composition of cars at most ski resorts, and their often “environmentally conscious” owners; a version with a tad more ground and chain clearance, plus a “get me unstuck”, lightweight on demand rear electric motor could perhaps be looked into as well.

  • avatar
    ajla

    Why not just go with Prius, Prius Calais, Pruis Custom Cruiser, and Prius Supreme?
     
    /Badly needs a new “Prius family” joke

  • avatar
    Kristjan Ambroz

    I am sure Bertel will be able to shed more light on this but AFAIK Toyota has been successfully using subbrands in Japan for a very long time. Crown being one I can think of (there are several quite distinct versions, from the taxi, to a sporty one (Athlete IIRC), to an LS type competitor (Majesta)…), WiLL (not sure they still exist) another one. They even have different badging (as does the Century but that’s hardly a vehicle family).

  • avatar
    VanillaDude

    Toyota has a problem. Their clientel is old.
    They have seen this coming on for over a decade and they used Scion to address it, and now they are spinning off Prius.

    This year, the Boomers start retiring and these people are driving a whole lotta Toyotas. Toyota is smart enough to see this before it is too late, and are trying to avoid doing an Oldsmobile within the next generation.

    It used to be Buicks and Mercurys that I saw filled with the soon-to-be-departed drivers, and now I am seeing this demographic driving Camrys and Accords. Toyota sees it too.

    Good for them!

    While I would not drive a Prius because I would rather drive a car than a political statement, I wish Toyota much success in this venture. If they prove that this market has legs, then we all win.


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