Not Ready for Prime Time? Toyota Delays Prius Plug-in Launch

Steph Willems
by Steph Willems
not ready for prime time toyota delays prius plug in launch

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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  • SCE to AUX SCE to AUX on Aug 04, 2016

    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%.

    • See 6 previous
    • Orenwolf Orenwolf on Aug 04, 2016

      @FormerFF 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.

  • Carlson Fan Carlson Fan on Aug 04, 2016

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

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    • Mcs Mcs on Aug 05, 2016

      @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.

  • Sportyaccordy Sportyaccordy on Aug 04, 2016

    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.

  • W.Minter W.Minter on Aug 05, 2016

    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.