Toyota Launches The Car Of The Future, The Prius Alpha April

Bertel Schmitt
by Bertel Schmitt

In a normal world, an automaker wants to time the announcement of a new car just right: In time to build anticipation. Not too early, because that would hurt sales of last year’s models. In Japan, they keep things simple and have the press event the day the car goes on sale. Today, I was at a press event in Tokyo that celebrated the Prius Alpha, a bigger, roomier minivanish Prius that can seat 7. If you’d order it today, you would get your car in a distant future, in April 2012. No typo. 11 months from now. Next year.

Welcome to the new world of post-tsunami car launches.

When asked today when the car will be delivered, Chief Engineer Hiroshi Kayukawa said: “Well, we are trying to get our production up and in order, and having received so many orders in advance, we want to do this as quickly as possible, and it looks like it’s going to be April 2012.”

Instead of a tsunami, a ripple ran through the audience, assembled in a pavilion in the garden of the Tokyo Prince Hotel, where the members of the media were treated to the first samples of hot and humid Tokyo weather with the A/C turned to barely bearable. Perspiration for a powerless nation.

That’s how Prius Alpha is written correctly, by the way, hold the trademark suits, Alfa.

“You said April twothousandtwelve?” asked an incredulous reporter. “Is that related to the earthquake crisis kind of thing? Is that the problem?” Under fire, the Chief Engineer says: “Well, ok, now, originally we were planning to launch this in late April. The launch event has been set back a couple of weeks. So in that sense, there is a direct relationship to the natural disaster. However, in terms of actual production, we have all the parts lined up, we are ready to make it.” More flabbergastedness.

Here is what we could unearth at the sidelines of the first launch event of a car that will become available a little less than a year later: The Prius Alpha will be made at the Tsutsumi plant in Toyota city on line 1. On the same line, the Prius and other sedans are being made. There is such a backlog of orders for the Prius and other cars that the fabulous new guy Prius Alpha will have to take a number and wait for its turn.

And it’s getting even more complicated, as are a lot of things in the post-tsunami age. 25,000 orders for this car had been received, and some of them may already have been filled, I heard today from Toyota spokesman Dion Corbett. I told you it’s complicated.

But if I would go down to my neighborhood Toyota dealer in Tokyo and say “sumimasen, I’d like to buy that new Prius Alpha,” I would be told to expect delivery sometime in April next year.

The U.S. launch, originally planned for June this year, most likely will become a victim of this situation. But who knows, maybe the Prius Alpha will be launched in the U.S. in June, and will arrive at dealerships see volume shipments arriving in May 2012? Now mind you, this was a JDM event, and great pains were taken not to talk about anything American (or European, for that matter.) All speculations are strictly mine.

If the March 11 earthquake could shift the main island of Japan by 8 feet, you can be sure that it will cause many other shifts. Including many extra shifts.

PS: Toyota U.S.A. said later in the day “that the Prius v is still on track for delivery to U.S. customers this fall.” The Prius Alpha will be called Prius V in the U.S.

Bertel Schmitt
Bertel Schmitt

Bertel Schmitt comes back to journalism after taking a 35 year break in advertising and marketing. He ran and owned advertising agencies in Duesseldorf, Germany, and New York City. Volkswagen A.G. was Bertel's most important corporate account. Schmitt's advertising and marketing career touched many corners of the industry with a special focus on automotive products and services. Since 2004, he lives in Japan and China with his wife <a href=""> Tomoko </a>. Bertel Schmitt is a founding board member of the <a href=""> Offshore Super Series </a>, an American offshore powerboat racing organization. He is co-owner of the racing team Typhoon.

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4 of 28 comments
  • Th009 Th009 on May 15, 2011

    Hot and humid in Tokyo? At the moment it seems very pleasant, at least by Tokyo standards. Did I miss a heatwave?

    • Bertel Schmitt Bertel Schmitt on May 16, 2011

      You missed a one day heatwave on Friday with high humidity (after a lot of rain the days before.) Now it is indeed pleasant. We have windows and doors open, nice breeze.

  • Kita Ikki Kita Ikki on May 20, 2011

    The Prius V should *replace* the regular Prius in the US.

    • Bytor Bytor on May 20, 2011

      It would be an epic mistake to replace the current Prius with the Prius V. The Prius is all many people need and it gets 10 MPG more than the Prius V.

  • Sobhuza Trooper Like fusion power, the I.D. Buzz is only 30 years away.
  • Lou_BC "respondents between 18 and 80 years old" Basically anyone deemed an adult who might be allowed to drive.
  • Lou_BC They will do fine if they come up with some cool sedans ;)
  • Mister They've got their work cut out for them. I live in a large metropolitan city of 1.2+ million people, the is a single Mitsubishi dealer. It's really more like a used-car dealer that sells Mitsubishi on the side. With the remarkably cheesy name of "Johnny Legends".
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