By on August 4, 2016

2017 Toyota Prius Prime Rear 3/4, Image: Toyota

Toyota has pushed back the launch dates of its next-generation Prius plug-in hybrid, spelling a black Christmas for environmentally conscious motorists.

According to Reuters, the model — known as the Prius Prime in the U.S. — won’t bow this fall in Japan, and production will be cut back to match reduced demand. It’s not a great start for a model the automaker clearly worked hard on.

The 2017 Prius plug-in boasts new refinements and distinctive styling that sets it apart from its regular hybrid siblings. Besides the visual differences, the plug-in boasts an 8.8 kWh battery pack good for 22 miles of all-electric range, after which the vehicle operates like a normal hybrid.

Japan was first on the list of countries to receive the plug-in Prius, and it still is, though buyers can expect it to arrive this winter, not this fall. The North American and European launches were supposed to happen in late fall, but those plans could be in jeopardy.

Toyota hasn’t explained the delay, though speculation on the cause ranges from worry over the model’s new battery packs to concerns about demand. These days, low oil gas prices and the popularity of SUVs and crossovers make hybrids a tough sell.

“We decided we want to take our time and more care before starting mass manufacturing,” a Toyota spokesperson recently told The Detroit Bureau. Detroit-based spokesperson Rick Bourgoise told the publication that, “The full volume inventory will just be slower than anticipated.”

Toyota wants to sell 60,000 Prius plug-ins per year, with sales split evenly between Japan and North America.

[Image: Toyota]

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60 Comments on “Not Ready for Prime Time? Toyota Delays Prius Plug-in Launch...”


  • avatar
    dukeisduke

    I was wondering, “Can they make it any uglier?” And the answer is yes.

  • avatar
    jpolicke

    I sincerely hope that the “back edge of the roof floating in mid-air” styling fad started by Nissan dies soon. JMO

    • 0 avatar
      Drzhivago138

      Nissan started it? I thought it was the 2011 Explorer that started it.

      • 0 avatar
        PrincipalDan

        Personally I’d love to get a vehicle with that styling cue and tint the windows to limo levels on the rear doors and back windows. Then I could clearly see the designers intent.

        • 0 avatar
          Adam Tonge

          The Explorer’s tint is pretty dark.

          • 0 avatar
            PrincipalDan

            Again, facetious, tongue in cheek, wiseguy…

            My fear for black c/d-pillars is how that paint seems to turn grey much faster than the regular paint job goes bad.

            Imagine your 5-year old ride with decent looking paint but faded black rear pillars. CLASSY!

          • 0 avatar
            Adam Tonge

            Early Flexes seem to be doing okay with that black plastic C-pillar not fading. There is plenty of FoMoCo plastic fading in other applications though.

          • 0 avatar
            CoreyDL

            I can picture the big black plastic c-pillars on the current Jag XJ aging poorly, making them look even more obvious on cars without proper window tinting.

          • 0 avatar
            Adam Tonge

            The black pillars work on SUVs because the manufacturers tint the [email protected] out of them.

        • 0 avatar

          Have you seen how much of that blacked out area at the back of the new Prius is actually see-through glass ? I would guess as little as 25% .. the rest is C/D pillar and diffuser to hide the C/D pillars. It wouldn’t take much tint to block the last sliver of rearward visibility.

  • avatar
    indi500fan

    “Spelling a black Christmas for environmentally conscious motorists”

    Wow….will grief counselors be available at local Toyota stores, or just online therapy via TTAC?

  • avatar
    stingray65

    Governments around the world are forcing automakers to make fuel efficient low emission vehicles, which are at best only marginally profitable under even the best market conditions (i.e. rising/high fuel prices). Under current low oil price conditions they are hugely unprofitable because they only sell in small numbers and with big incentives attached, while SUVs, CUVs, and Pickups fly out the door and earn $5,000 to $20,000+ per unit margins. Most analysts expect lowish oil prices for several more years at least, which means Prius, Volt, i3, Leaf, Tesla, etc. green vehicle investments will be big money losers for years to come.

    • 0 avatar
      SCE to AUX

      Meeting increasing CAFE requirements while oil prices are low means the mfrs, consumers, and governments are on a collision course.

      However, the new Volt is setting sales records, and Tesla’s sales continue to be on a tear. Fortunately, ‘green’ vehicle sales are not tied exclusively to fuel prices.

      • 0 avatar
        VoGo

        There is this very odd dynamic where people on the right denigrate fuel efficient vehicles and government mandates in favor of the free market. But they don’t put 2 + 2 together and realize that the reason that oil is cheap today is that demand is down, because of those very same fuel efficient vehicles and government mandates.

        You see the wheels turning behind their eyes, maybe some smoke comes out of their ears, their eyes widen, but then they pull back from admitting that they get it, because that would entail some sort of admission that there actually is a role for government that goes beyond allowing them to buy weapons.

        • 0 avatar
          Pch101

          The right would argue that lower oil prices are largely a supply-driven phenomena.

          I would say that you’re both mostly wrong. A speculative bubble during the mid-2000s for commodities generally and oil in particular drove prices to levels that were not aligned with the market, so it was inevitable that they would eventually collapse.

          At the same time, there has been a fundamental change in the oil markets that have created a higher equilibrium price point that is above what it used to be fifteen years ago, thanks to increased demand in the developing world.

          Does selling a few hybrids do much to reduce overall US demand for oil? Probably not — there aren’t enough of them on the road to do much. I would guess that net-net, regulations and hybrids have reduced total demand by only a tiny amount. Keep in mind that an improvement in MPG may very well be offset by increased driving, so there may be little or no net gain.

          • 0 avatar
            VoGo

            Your analysis makes some good points. But note this: the influence of hybrids and EVs on the price of oil isn’t about today’s sales. It’s about their influence on the oil market’s expectations of the future.

            If oil prices were to triple, oil traders know that carmakers could quickly ramp up hybrid and EV production. Nearly all the major automakers have the technology now. Likewise, homeowners could quickly switch to solar. This keeps a cap on oil prices that didn’t exist 20 years ago.

          • 0 avatar
            Pch101

            The oil bubble didn’t pop because of hybrids. It popped because that’s what bubbles do.

            This is typical of speculative bubbles — investors get caught up in the frenzy and overshoot by a wide margin, overstating the fundamdentals in order to justify overpaying. This works until it doesn’t.

            Often times, these bubbles are built on a foundation of truth but the speculators get carried away. The dot-bomb investors were right about the internet generally, they just paid too much for the wrong stuff. The oil speculators were right about China and the developing world generally, they just grossly overestimated what that was worth.

          • 0 avatar
            VoGo

            PCH,
            I’m not arguing that, only that there are multiple drivers of oil pricing.

            Has anyone ever told you that you have a distinct discomfort with ambiguity?

          • 0 avatar
            Pch101

            I don’t see how ambiguity justifies ignoring data.

            -There aren’t that many hybrids

            -Buyers of higher MPG vehicles may take advantage of that higher MPG by driving more (which may be why many of them bought them in the first place)

            Also note that fuel consumption declined during the recession because that’s a typical outcome during recessions. Higher unemployment –> less driving.

            FWIW, I pointed out on this website back during the oil bubble that it would pop, and it did. I was told by several posters that I was wrong to predict this, but I wasn’t.

            I wasn’t a psychic, I was just adhering to a basic law of economics: When prices surge rapidly, then much of the increase is probably just temporary, as markets don’t typically work like that.

          • 0 avatar
            VoGo

            PCH,
            Commodities markets are driven by expectations of future trends, as much as by current drivers.

            If in every interaction you insist that only you have the exact and unambiguous truth, you may be the smartest person in the room, but you may also be alone.

          • 0 avatar
            Pch101

            Sorry, but the numbers don’t really support your thesis. Demand swings are mostly determined by price and macroeconomic conditions; the vehicle choices are largely a reaction, not a driver. (If the Prius didn’t exist, then most of those who were fuel savers would have bought a more conventional fuel sipper and/or found ways to drive less.)

            The right-wingers actually have a more defensible argument re: supply, although I would reiterate that they are mostly wrong.

          • 0 avatar
            VoGo

            Huh. I guess my 7 years as a commodity trader on Wall Street were wasted and I don’t fundamentally understand how markets work. That there is no possibility whatsoever that another influence on pricing that Mr. Smartest Guy in the Room didn’t invent could even exist. Got it.

            BTW – right wingers absolutely are delusional about supply. They constantly point to US fracking, but the actual numbers show it has minimal impact on the global oil supply. The real changes in supply have come from Libya, Iraq and Iran, but acknowledging that would mean acknowledging a successful foreign policy in the Middle East over the past 8 years. That won’t happen.

          • 0 avatar
            Pch101

            I don’t think that any professional or educational background will be able to prove that a niche vehicle could crash world oil prices. The proportion of consumption is a small drop in a large bucket.

            In any case, commodity trading provides a great example of how short-term pricing can be utterly disconnected from long-term fundamentals. (We just had a bubble, remember?) A trader would be more concerned with the price one hour from now than the price one decade from now.

          • 0 avatar
            VoGo

            PCH,
            I will assume you don’t understand my point. I’ll even go so far as to confess that I didn’t communicate effectively, if you are willing to read the following. Just read before you insult.

            My point is that the ability of carmakers to shift meaningful production to hybrids and EVs now exists. That wasn’t true 20 years ago, when the Prius was a niche vehicle. Now, Nissan, GM, Ford, Honda, Toyota, all the Europeans and even FCA can produce mass market EVs and/or hybrids at scale. So that if the price of oil were to triple, they could shift production – millions of units — to meet market consumer demand. That would significantly impact demand for oil.

            You were never able to say that before. Likewise, you weren’t able to say that millions of homeowners could quickly shift from heating with diesel to solar. But now that’s possible. The technology and infrastructure are in place. That puts a meaningful cap on oil prices.

          • 0 avatar
            Pch101

            I understood your point, and I didn’t agree with it.

            Oil prices go up. Over time, consumers realize that the price increase will have some longevity, so they begin to adjust.

            The specifics of how they adjust doesn’t matter from a macro standpoint. Whether you trade in your brodozer for a 3-cylinder sub-sub-compact or start riding the bus or get a job closer to home or whatever doesn’t matter in the scheme of things. What is predictable is that consumers will figure out some way to buy less of it.

            You can’t just calculate the reduction in consumption by comparing MPG figures, because there are other behaviors that are associated with it.

        • 0 avatar
          stingray65

          Vo Go – you certainly have strong opinions for someone that knows so little about economics. A few hundred thousand Prius and Volts don’t make a bit of difference with regards to oil demand globally. Prices are down because supply is up due to fracking and oil from places such as Iraq and Iran that have been “offline” for a while. The high oil prices of a few years back made it attractive to find new sources of oil, and new sources were found in great abundance. Teslas, Volts, and Prius are very well engineered green vehicles, but they are unprofitable because the mass markets don’t want them. Green cars exist only because of the mandates of government bureaucrats that get driven to work in black Tahoes and Suburbans.

          • 0 avatar
            VoGo

            Stingray,
            Thanks for insulting my knowledge of economics, rather than taking a moment to consider a perspective that happens to differ from your politics.

            I’ll go back to Trump University and demand my money back for the degree in economics. Oh, wait, I didn’t go to Trump University; I went to Columbia.

      • 0 avatar
        BryanC

        I just bought a new Volt this weekend. I love how fast it is around town (0-30, 30-50) – it’s a joy to drive. The battery range is great. It’s comfortable and super quiet. I think it’s a great product and wish more people would try it out.

        • 0 avatar
          VoGo

          That’s nice. Is it common practice now for the police to give you the drawing they make of suspects after they catch you?

        • 0 avatar
          markf

          “I’ll go back to Trump University and demand my money back for the degree in economics. Oh, wait, I didn’t go to Trump University; I went to Columbia.”

          DING DING DING there it is, the mention of Trump or Trump University.(with bonus previous post mentioning guns)

          Can’t have one post without this clown mentioning Trump. BTW, how much do you charge Trump for living in your head.

          Double bonus with “I went to Columbia” therefore you are stupid and I am not insult.

          • 0 avatar
            VoGo

            markf,
            You are going to have to get used to the fact that Trump and Trump University are going to be laugh lines for many years to come. Every time someone mentions an orangutan spewing nonsense, every time some idiot criticizes the parents of dead hero soldiers or honored POWs, every time someone goes bankrupt to screw his business partners but take care of himself, you’re going to hear this reference.

            Be honest: who do you think of when some fool tells people they see Russia from their porch? Or when someone can’t spell potato? Or disputes what the meaning of the word “is” is?

            This is life. It’s not bringing up politics to make fun of a buffoon. It’s just plain old American fun.

          • 0 avatar
            markf

            “You are going to have to get used to the fact that Trump and Trump University are going to be laugh lines for many years to come.”

            They have nothing to do with cars. No one gives a shit that you may or may not have attended Columbia.

            Save your anti-Trump, anti-Gun, SJW nonsense for the Huffington Post and Dailykos, it has no business here.

          • 0 avatar

            What I know – I’ve been paying $1.63 per gallon for gas where I live. It’s been around that price all summer. At that rate I’m willing to drive my Lincoln Mark LT like a race car and leave it idling everywhere.

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    The prior-gen Prius Plugin was a sales dud, as was the Honda Accord Hybrid Plugin. Both had serious price premiums attached to that option, which is hard to justify when the car already gets close to 50 mpg.

    The Volt plugin succeeds because it’s lower cost, better-looking, and the plugin feature isn’t a tacked-on option.

    The new Sonata Hybrid Plugin received good reviews, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s a sales dud also. The ones I find are already being discounted 20%.

    • 0 avatar
      CoreyDL

      I didn’t even know there WAS a prior Prius and Accord plugin. I know there’s a Fusion one currently because I’ve seen one. But that’s about all.

      • 0 avatar
        FormerFF

        Honda only produced a hamdful (like 50 a month) of PHEV Accords, and only sold them in New York and California. The PHEV Prius was not sold throughout the U. S., I believe it was something like 30 of the 50 states.

        I drive a PHEV Fusion, it’s very nice.

    • 0 avatar
      orenwolf

      Very true. Unless your driving is confined to your neighbourhood, the plug-in part of this equation is extremely expensive and almost symbolic.

      This thing should be a BEV first with a range extender, something the Volt is much better at, to be sure.

      • 0 avatar
        FormerFF

        That’s not correct. 96 percent of the 1100 miles I drove last month were EV.

        • 0 avatar
          orenwolf

          Let me amend my statement to “Unless you can fit all of your travel into the relatively small range of the BEV portion of the prius..” better? :)

          • 0 avatar
            FormerFF

            You’d be surprised what percentage of the miles the average person drives that is.

          • 0 avatar
            orenwolf

            Actually, I wouldn’t be. I probably fit that category, in fact. But a lot of people commute outside that range each day – surely when you count round-trip.

            I made that calculation when I was considering my next vehicle. I’d rather get something like a leaf and be able to round-trip commute than a prius and have only part of my commute each day be electric, but then we have the problem of longer hauls, making the decision, instead, between something like a plug-in prius or a volt, versus something like a model 3 or the bolt. For my money, I’d rather have longer electric range than require that some part of my daily commute *always* be on ICE.

  • avatar
    Carlson Fan

    Why is Toyota wasting time/money developing a battery Prius? I thought they said the future was in hydrogen!…..LOL

    • 0 avatar
      Pch101

      The Prius has always had a battery pack. This addresses how the battery is charged and the size of the battery, not whether it has a battery

      If Toyota had confidence in EVs, then it would have skipped hybrids altogether. The development of hybrids implicitly recognizes that battery power alone is inadequate.

      • 0 avatar
        VoGo

        Why is Toyota wasting time/money developing a battery Prius? Well, the Prius *is* the best selling new nameplate in the world in the last 2 decades, so there’s that…

        You might as well ask why companies today are so focused on revenues and profits.

      • 0 avatar
        SCE to AUX

        That’s not quite true.

        The ~1998 Prius was developed at a time when higher-density battery technology didn’t exist for vehicle use, so Toyota used NiMH due to its low cost and ruggedness – a good move.

        The newer Prius uses lithium ion, so I’d say Toyota’s confidence in battery technology is growing. They have to be surprised at the volume of Tesla Model 3 pre-orders, for instance.

        But they’ve stubbornly avoided EVs, while foolishly plowing ahead on hydrogen, which is a dead end. While I understand their EV phobia, I don’t get their H2 love. For a company that knows how to build mainstream money makers, H2 is an aberration.

        • 0 avatar
          Pch101

          The Japanese government is pushing for hydrogen.

          My guess is that it is looking to have leadership and an IP advantage in a potential new export industry, since the intellectual property of EVs has minimal value and may very well go nowhere.

          If hydrogen doesn’t work, then it will not have cost them much to find out, while it could be quite valuable if it does work.

          If battery technology is improved or replaced with something better (supercapacitors?), then it will be easy for everyone to leap into the electric car business. But automakers can do little or nothing now to contribute to the R&D that could make those improvements happen. Those kinds of improvements will have to occur in a lab.

          • 0 avatar
            mcs

            @pch101: Those kinds of improvements will have to occur in a lab.

            Most of the improvements do have to come from a lab, but, in addition, there is a lot of work that needs to be done just to get the new technologies into mass production. You can have the greatest magical unicorn poop battery in the world, but if you can’t mass produce the battery fast enough it’s a problem. If your unicorn only moves it’s bowels during a full moon, it’s a problem.

            I have close connections to one lab with really great technology, but it’s been a year since they started pilot production and full mass production won’t start until at least 2020. They even took the manufacturing process into consideration from the start.

            So, while the lab work is important, the effort to get it into mass production can be substantial and some technologies may even fail in that phase. I know of multiple technologies that will give us amazing batteries at some surprising densities with durable electrodes that have left the lab. The question now is can they make the leap into mass production and how long is that going to take?

            Another thing to keep in mind regarding battery technology is that the companies at the core of this industry are really secretive. If there’s a miracle battery coming, you might not hear about it until it’s rolling off the line. You might hear about fluffy little lab advances here and there, but the guys with real product keep quiet.

        • 0 avatar
          Carlson Fan

          “But they’ve stubbornly avoided EVs, while foolishly plowing ahead on hydrogen, which is a dead end. While I understand their EV phobia, I don’t get their H2 love. For a company that knows how to build mainstream money makers, H2 is an aberration.”

          Exactly and I’m sure you realized my remark was tongue n cheek hence the “LOL” at the end.

        • 0 avatar
          brandloyalty

          SCE to AUX:
          I thought only the fancier model of the new Prius used lithium batteries. So most of them would still be using NiMH.

  • avatar
    sportyaccordy

    I still think Prius should become its own brand. Instead of this they should have debuted a Prius crossover. Would need a bigger engine but the Prius V doesn’t cut it functionally or aesthetically. RAV4 hybrid is meh. If they could get the Prius crossover to over 35 or even 40 MPG combined it would be a smash.

    • 0 avatar
      SCE to AUX

      The upcoming Kia Niro is supposed to get 50 mpg; we’ll see.

      At least it looks great. If you look closely, you’ll see a car in the photo:
      https://3.bp.blogspot.com/-cLLpL3IFFwk/Vtb2he7o38I/AAAAAAASGSs/LvbIXJY6QCk/s1600/Kia-Niro-b1.jpg

  • avatar
    W.Minter

    No one needs a 4 seater near luxury Prius with a laughable trunk, no matter how small or large the battery is. At least someone pushed the red button, which is a good sign in terms of corporate culture.

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