There’s an old adage, in the business world, about “first mover advantage.” Deliver a breakthrough product and, even if it falls short of what eventually comes to market, you’ve got an edge on the competition.
So, after initially shrugging off plug-in hybrid technology, Toyota announced today that it will have its first model to market by the first half of 2010. But the first batch of about 600 copies of the 2011 Toyota Prius Plug-in Hybrid will be delivered to business and government fleets. The automaker won’t start selling to consumers until sometime in 2012.
So, while the Japanese maker will get bragging rights, the real lead in the retail market will go to General Motors, which plans to deliver its own plug-in model, the Chevrolet Volt, to retail showrooms by late 2010.
The two makers are taking a very different approach to the underlying technology, as well. The 2011 Toyota Prius Plug-in starts out with the same basic hardware as the conventional Prius hybrid. But it gets a larger 5.2 kWh battery and one using newer lithium-ion chemistry, rather than the nickel-metal hydride batteries used in the standard Prius.