LOS ANGELES – Like a lot of automotive enthusiasts, I’ve always been a little derisive towards Toyota’s Prius, mostly because the car has always been a bit lacking in guts. In fact, a running joke I have with a few other automotive journalists I know involves uttering the words “it’s always a f*cking Prius” when we come upon slower traffic during press drives. That’s because it often actually is a Prius holding up the works. I’ve dropped this line on many a California freeway, from Sacramento on down to San Diego. And, of course, I’ve said plenty of times bopping around my home base of Chicago.
I am typing this from 40,000 feet over the middle of nowhere as I travel to L.A. for the auto show. Sometime tonight I will see the next Toyota Prius for the first time, along with hordes of other shrimp-eaters. Until then, however, I can surf my browser over to the Google machine and find information on the Japan-spec Prius, which has already broken cover.
The Toyota Prius may have kickstarted the hybrid revolution, but its star has faded over the years as newer, more efficient hybrids have hit the market with less polarizing style. That’s about to change, though, as Toyota just released teasers for a new model that looks an awful lot like a new Prius. The Prius entered its fourth generation back in 2016, so it was time for an overhaul. Toyota's teaser of the new fifth-generation car appears to show an evolutionary update rather than a radical redesign.
While the Toyota Prius was an inarguable success on the North American market, its smaller sibling really only had a few good years before sales figures started trending in the wrong direction. The Prius C attempted to court urbanites (the C stands for city) by offering the same hybrid concept in a smaller package. Unfortunately, Toyota only managed to move around 13,000 between the United States and Canada in 2017 before its discontinuation the following year — leaving us with the standard Prius and the tongue-twisting Prius Prime Plug-in Hybrid.
But the C has since been revised in its native Japan, where it’s called the Aqua, resulting in a slightly roomier automobile with a new high-output bipolar nickel-hydrogen battery that’s supposed to deliver improved responsiveness and range. Considering the escalation of Western fuel prices, we’re wondering if it’s time for the Prius C to make a comeback in our neck of the woods or if it’s better left to cruise around the tight streets of Tokyo where its success is all but assured as the Aqua.
It took many years before the first (non-wrecked) Toyota Priuses began showing up in the big self-service car graveyards I frequent, partly because Toyotas tend to hold together pretty well and partly because buyers of early Priuses seem to be the kind of car owners who obsess over the proper care and feeding of their vehicles. This ’03 Prius in Denver, painted in I Love Gaia Green™ (actually, it’s Electric Green Mica), appears to be one of those well-loved cars that finally just wore out.
Toyota Motor Corp. is recalling roughly 752,000 vehicles due to a presumed faulty hybrid system. Around 267,000 of the affected units are Prius vehicles sold in the United States.
According to the manufacturer, certain Prius (MY 2013-2015) and Prius V (2014-2017) models can fail to enter fail-safe driving mode in response to certain hybrid system faults. While the conditions for this are said to be fairly specific (though not explained by the automaker in any detail), the resulting failure would see the car lose power and stall. Obviously, this represents a safety risk.
Back when your author was the (soon to be not) proud owner of a 93-horsepower Plymouth, Toyota was prepping the American populace for a new kind of driving experience. A futuristic one, and a thrifty one, to boot. Two decades ago, it debuted a model that first appeared in its home country three years earlier: the Prius.
Eighty trillion jokes later, and after selling more than 1.9 million of the things to U.S. consumers, Toyota is marking the Prius’ 20th anniversary in this country with a limited run of special edition models. And they happen to look better than the stock Prius.
It’s the Toyota Prius’ party and it can cry if it wants to. Two decades after its North American debut, the Prius is reportedly set to mark the occasion with a special edition. Whether or not the new reigning champ of the hybrid scene, the Prius’s own RAV4 Hybrid stablemate, is invited to the bash remains unknown.
Yes, the Prius has come a long way since its 2001 introduction, but time can either solidify a front-runner’s position or see it fall behind the pack, overtaken by changing trends. The Prius falls into the latter category.
The Toyota RAV4 Hybrid Is Now, by Far, Toyota's Best-selling Hybrid in America, Easily Outselling the Prius in 2019
You weren’t crazy. In 2000, when the Toyota Prius first arrived in the United States only slightly behind the Honda Insight, it wasn’t unreasonable for you to wonder whether the odd little duck had a future. And to be fair, it didn’t. It wasn’t until Toyota launched a new generation of the Prius as a more practical liftback for MY2004 that a hybridized future appeared plausible.
With little in the way of competition, Toyota sold 107,897 copies of the Prius in the U.S. in 2005. That made the Prius more popular than the Volkswagen Jetta and Mazda 3; more popular than the Toyota RAV4, as well. By 2012, Toyota had expanded the Prius family to include a plug-in, a subcompact Prius C, and a Prius V wagon. The result: U.S. Prius sales peaked at 236,655 units in 2012.
And then, for the Prius, it all fell apart. Half a decade later, total Prius sales were less than half that strong. In 2019, Toyota is tracking toward fewer than 70,000 U.S. Prius sales, the worst year for the nameplate since 2004.
Yet Toyota is on a pace for its hybrid family to earn roughly 226,000 sales in 2019. Granted, those aren’t 2012 levels. And selling at that level does require an array of hybrid options. But regardless, it’s clear Toyota has found its Prius replacement. As the Prius’s star fades, the RAV4 Hybrid is now Toyota’s primary hybrid volume driver.
The proliferation of hybrid vehicles has relegated the venerable, once-dominant Toyota Prius to a lesser plane of influence. This isn’t breaking news, as Toyota has seen the volume of its Prius family slide since 2012, falling below the six-figure mark last year for the first time in 14 years. Volume in 2018 was less than half of the number sold just six years earlier.
Still, the model’s decline stings. As May sales numbers roll in, the former darling of the green crowd finds itself outpaced even by a Ford sedan with no future.
On Wednesday, Toyota announced plans to offer royalty-free access to its cache of hybrid technology patents. While the automaker already licenses aspects of its Hybrid Synergy Drive to other automakers, the new strategy seeks to drastically expand the use of its systems as the world gears up for widespread electrification.
Toyota, cautious as ever, has been understandably hesitant to throw itself headlong into costly BEV development programs. It did have the foresight, however, to jump into hybrid technology earlier than most other manufacturers, and doesn’t want to see that edge lost as battery-only vehicles grow in popularity. Providing open access to the nearly 24,000 patents on hardware used in the Prius and Mirai could help the company stack the deck in its favor.
While an inarguable success for Toyota, the Prius lost considerable clout through some odd styling decisions, a market trending toward crossovers, and smug owners who put a sour taste in everyone else’s mouth. I was never really a fan of the model, but I appreciated what it offered — outstanding economy, sufficient utility, and rather good comfort (especially in the current generation) for a reasonable price.
Hoping to reach new customers living in the snowbelt and restore some of its lost groove, Toyota has updated the Prius and will begin offering the model with all-wheel drive. Well, I say “all-wheel drive,” but things are a little more complicated than that.
The 2019 Prius AWD-e utilizes a small, magnetless motor to drive the rear wheels, while keeping the aft axle completely independent from the existing 1.8-liter hybrid system and its own pair of motor/generators. Fortunately, I had an opportunity to explore the new system in the wintry wilds of Wisconsin to see if it’s any good.
The first-generation Honda Insight was a rare false-start for the company, marketed as a hatchback that had more doors than seats (three and two, respectively). Its atomic-egg styling enveloped a 67 horsepower 1.0-liter gasoline engine paired to a 10kW electric motor. The second-gen model, a more conventional car in terms of its styling and capacity, also fell a bit flat compared to the segment-leading Prius.
Honda’s betting the third time’s the charm, kicking off the mass production start of the all-new 2019 Honda Insight today at its plant in Indiana. Will this Insight electrify buyers or fizzle out? At first glance, it would at least appear they’ve got the styling right this time. Not everyone wants to shout that they’re driving a hybrid.
Toyota, one of the original purveyors of hybrids, has recognized the need to juice its EV profile. Chevrolet, Nissan, and a bevy of other automakers already have an answer for customers looking to totally shun gas stations. Toyota does not.
The plan, unveiled Monday in Japan, calls for “more than ten” all-electric Toyota cars to be available worldwide by the early 2020s. This is quite a jump for a company that’s experienced in hybrids and PHEVs, but doesn’t currently offer a single example of EV technology here in America.
Late last week, Toyota announced it will conduct separate U.S. safety recalls of around 28,600 C-HR crossovers from the 2018 model year and approximately 39,900 Prius Plug-in Hybrids from 2012-2015.
For the affected C-HRs, there’s a possibility that the electronic parking brake might not operate properly. Toyota claims there is a chance the parking brake won’t disengage after it is applied. There is also a chance the faulty electronics might prevent it from being applied in the first place, which is a little more serious. In addition to creating a possible rollaway risk in certain situations, the automaker says it would be in noncompliance with a federal safety standards.
Latest Car ReviewsRead more
Latest Product ReviewsRead more
- Tassos Why do you ask, "will this work for CHEVY"?? Who cares if it does not work for them? The question is, "will this work for GM as a whole, and for the Corvette brand in particular, and the answer is a resounding YES.
- VoGhost I don't really care about sub-branding. I care about great product. GM should focus less on the branding and more on the great product part of the equation. Barra was appointed CEO on the premise of 'no more boring cars'. It hasn't worked out that way.
- 28-Cars-Later Tim - I seriously did not log in just to complain but this site is completely jacked up now from a website design perspective. I always whitelisted for ten years but I had to turn on No Script because its just so horrible now, and with it on the layout looks even worse. I'm truly stunned by the callous design choices coming from on high, just wow.
- 28-Cars-Later Corey I need talked down here:https://pittsburgh.craigslist.org/cto/d/pittsburgh-1999-cadillac-eldorado-etc/7561280135.htmlI talked to the seller, he said his father had it sent to a specialty shop to had the head bolts done which is the main design flaw in these. I need another car like I need another hole in the head... still...
- Lou_BC The birfield joints on these older units tend to need a rebuild and are very expensive to replace.