2023 Toyota Prius, Prius Prime Bow in L.A.

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.

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QOTD: New Prius, Who Dis?

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.

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Toyota Teases the Next-Generation Prius

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. 

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Honda Insight Being Replaced By More Hybrids Across Lineup

Ahead of Honda’s planned EVs offensive for the United States, the automaker has announced a deluge of hybrid variants of existing products. However these new vehicles will come at the expense of the Insight, which the company had just confirmed will be discontinued after 2022. In its stead will be new hybrid trips for the CR-V, Accord, and Civic — the latter of which served as the template for the passing model.

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Junkyard Find: 2003 Toyota Prius

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.

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Happy 20th, Toyota Prius

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.

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Its Best Days Behind It, Toyota Prius Prepares to Mark an Anniversary

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.

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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.

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Toyota Hybrid Sales Surge in May; Too Bad About the Prius…

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.

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Toyota to Rivals: Take This Hybrid Tech and Build It

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.

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Toyota's North American CEO Isn't Exactly Brimming With Enthusiasm for EVs

When it comes to electric vehicles, Toyota’s North American CEO seems to be on a different page than the company’s big boss, Akio Toyoda. A different page than Ford and General Motors, too. Maybe it’s because Toyoda has the entire globe in his sights, including many EV-hungry markets, while Jim Lentz can only look around, see low, low gas prices and a niche market dominated by a single player, and feel a rush of meh.

Lentz aired his views on our would-be electric future Wednesday, suggesting it would take draconian measures by the government to pry a healthy slice of Americans away from the gas pump. He’s not too enthused with Tesla, either.

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Toyota Expects a Quarter of Prius Customers to Choose AWD-e, but 25 Percent of Prius Is Not What It Used to Be

As America’s new vehicle market shifts to vehicles with four driven wheels, greater ride height, and dog-friendly tailgates, it seems more than sensible for the Toyota Prius to take part in some community outreach.

The Prius, America’s 10th-best-selling car just a decade ago, can keep doing the same thing over and over again while expecting different results. Or, the Prius can make a significant change – via available “independent electric, magnet-less rear motor” – to offer all-wheel drive, one of the feature sets that’s drawing car buyers away from cars.

And that’s exactly what Toyota has done for the otherwise refreshed 2019 Prius ( reviewed last week by our own Matt Posky). In a manner of speaking, Toyota expects big things from the Prius AWD-e: 25 percent of Prius customers, to be precise.

But one-fourth of all Prius volume is not what it used to be. In fact, it’s a far cry from what it used to be. A mere fraction of what it used to be. One-quarter of all Prius volume will make the Prius AWD-e barely more common than the Alfa Romeo Stelvio.

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2019 Toyota Prius AWD-e First Drive - Keeping Green On the White Stuff

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.

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2019 Toyota Prius AWD-e: Conquering Nature, While Saving It

While we’re not sure if consumers were ever really clamoring for an all-wheel drive Prius, Toyota has decided to grace North America with one for 2019. And it would have been a monumental surprise for the kissless virgins that make up the brunt of automotive journalism, had Toyota not already telegraphed its move by selling the model in Japan.

That’s alright, though. Average Joe had no clue such a vehicle already existed in Asia and we’d imagine most Prius fans will just be happy they’ll have an opportunity to buy one that can conquer snowy, mountainous terrain. Whether or not the 2019 Toyota Prius AWD-e can traverse glaciers on a thimble of fuel remains to be seen, but this seems like a wise move. People are constantly coming up to us and explaining how they “have to have” all-wheel drive and Toyota’s premier hybrid could certainly use a sales boost right now.

Perhaps this mid-cycle makeover can help with that.

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Piston Slap: Depressurizing Compressed Air Engines?

Maxim writes:

Just saw your post about running out of questions. Just wanted to say that you have a fan in Montreal, Canada! Love the subjects you guys talk about!

Everyone is talking about electrification and hybridization, but battery cost is a big negative point. PSA (group Peugeot Citroen) has developed a hybrid air system using compressed air as an alternative to electricity. A very smart and cost effective system. Where is that system now?

Why are the manufacturers not using tech like this to reduce their fleet MPG?

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  • Inside Looking Out I would avoid American cities if I can. European cities are created for humans and Americans for cars.
  • Inside Looking Out I used True car once in 2014 and got a great deal. The difference is that you do nothing but dealers call you. No haggling but you can get the same deal browsing inventories on dealers websites. It just matter of convenience, Rich people delegate job to someone else because time costs more.
  • Jeff S Adam on Rare Classic Cars has a new purchase a 1968 LTD Brougham just over 9k original miles. He really finds some gems.https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZK8R-LhM1LM&ab_channel=RareClassicCars%26AutomotiveHistory
  • Jeff S @Lou_BC--Diamonds are not really rare DeBeers dominates the diamond market and created the market with advertising starting in the 1930s thru the 40s. Before that time diamonds were for the most part considered for the wealthy and diamond wedding rings were not that common. Go back 100 years and most women wore wedding bands made of gold, silver, or other metals. DeBeers dominating the diamond market also controls the supply of diamonds keeping the prices higher by restricting supply. Sound familiar? Oil companies have learned to restrict supply of oil as well.https://blog.hubspot.com/marketing/diamond-de-beers-marketing-campaign
  • Statikboy So they named it after the worst cracker."Perhaps that’s why the autonomous dream appeals to so many - they’ve never experienced satisfaction, or even fun, whilst operating a motorcar.""This 2022 Mazda CX-30 Turbo, for example, can certainly handle the drudgery of the daily commute with aplomb but can make a detour on a twisty two-lane a bit more enjoyable."While the autonomous dream doesn't appeal to me at all, I think the reason that it does appeal to so many is because it theoretically has the potential to make the drudgery of the daily commute a bit more enjoyable.