Prius Minivan Approved For 2011 Launch
According to Reuters, The Nikkei is reporting that Toyota has approved a “competitively priced Prius hybrid minivan” for production in 2011. The new model will be the first Prius-branded vehicle in a long-rumored campaign by Toyota to stretch the nameplate to new models (future additions to the Prius line could include a compact model, based on the FT-CH concept). Depending on the timing of its release relative to the forthcoming plug-in Prius, it could also be the first lithium-ion battery-powered Toyota hybrid. Toyota will initially produce the new batteries in-house, before migrating production to a plant run by its joint venture with Panasonic. Toyota has not yet given details about pricing, performance, or even which markets this new minivan will initially be rolled out to.
Gee, guys, not a lot of love for the idea of a Toyota hybrid minivan. But why not? Look, if you have 3 or more kids, minivans are hard to resist. Sorry to burst your bubble, but 3 carseats and/or boosters just don't fit across the back seat of a Jetta. And SUVs aren't ideal because the third row is inaccessible, and the mileage and utility are lousy. It's not like non-hybrid minivans are all that fun to drive anyway, so adding a few hundred pounds of batteries won't matter. If Toyota can increase mileage up from the usual 18 mpg to 25, or even 30, that would be huge. Maybe they can do a package deal -- buy the Prius minivan and Toyobaru coupe for $600/month. Then you'd have it all, no?
Finally! Talk about match made in heaven. It will likely be smaller than the Sienna, benefitting gas mileage, and making it more close-in urban compatible. Up selling to current Prius owners who have out bred their current chariot, will be the easiest sale anyone has ever made.
I'm the ideal candidate I'm guessing - 20k miles a year, cheap bastard when it comes to expenses, love technology that improves my life. If they keep it around $25k, I'm game. Just make sure it has a sunroof available....
I have friends working on these projects. This is just the start of a huge push from Toyota to hybridise everything. Ford and Hyundai might be able to "go" with them, but everyone else will be left behind. $100+/bbl oil, and you'll need to join a queue to buy one.