The father of the Prius and Toyota chairman Takeshi Uchiyamada foresees hybrid sales climbing from 13 percent of global sales today to 20 percent in the near future.
Automotive News Europe reports that while hybrids make up a good part of sales in the United States and Japan, they are currently a niche market in Europe in the face of equal- or better-performing diesels with lower price tags. However, Uchiyamada believes so strongly in his forecast that he didn’t factor plug-in hybrids in to his forecast, nor give a separate outlook for plug-ins.
Speaking of plug-in hybrids, Uchiyamada believes the key to success lies in higher volumes, especially among suppliers:
Suppliers need higher volumes to slash costs of components specific to plug-in models, including batteries that should be bigger and more capable than the ones used in traditional hybrids.
Regarding the Prius, Uchiyamada said the project — known as Project G21 — was a challenge, beginning with the proposal that the future Prius would net “one and a half times better fuel economy than anything that had existed before,” only to be told by top management to double the proposed number. Then, after a successful debut at the 1995 Tokyo Auto Show, he and his team spent 49 days trying to get the proto-Prius to move, finally doing so near the end of that year, “but only for 500 meters.”
Today, with 25 hybrids between Toyota and its premium brand Lexus, as well as a global total of over 6 million hybrids sold, Uchiyamada may have aged out of the title bestowed unto him regarding the Prius:
Maybe I am the grandfather by now.