There was a sense of déjà vu as we walked up to the new hybrid parked outside the Eagle Crest Conference Center. But no wonder. All similarities are purely intentional when it comes to the new 2012 Toyota Prius v, the first addition to what is soon to become an extended family of Prius-badged hybrids.
It’s been 11 years since the original Prius made its debut, promising an under-the-hood revolution that seems especially timely today with fuel prices nudging upwards towards record levels. Surprisingly, though, that revolution never quite seems to take off. Despite $4-a-gallon gas, hybrids today account for barely 3% of the total U.S. market and, all told, if you added them all up their collective sales didn’t match the May numbers for Detroit’s three most popular muscle cars, the Ford Mustang, Chevrolet Camaro and Dodge Challenger.
Okay, maybe May wasn’t a great example, as Japanese makers like Toyota were still struggling with production cuts caused by the March 11 earthquake and tsunami in Japan. Sales of the Prius alone were off as much as 40%, company officials lament, due to supply shortages. Indeed, for the moment, there’s barely a 4-day supply of the original Prius in U.S. showrooms. The fact is, while American motorists have yet to embrace hybrids, on the whole, they’re in love with the distinctive little Toyota, which now accounts for about 50% of the gas-electric models sold in the U.S. (For more, Click Here.)
So, is it any surprise that when Toyota decided to roll out an assortment of new standalone hybrid models, like the new Prius v, that they would share the familiar and popular badge – and maintain a very familial appearance?