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2016 Toyota Prius Faces Tough New Challenges

Japanese maker hopes to broaden appeal in an era of cheap gas.

by on Sep.09, 2015

Toyota will boost the mileage of the 2016 Prius by 10%, to around 55 mpg.

It’s not only the world’s best-selling hybrid-electric vehicle but has routinely been one of the top sellers overall in green-minded markets like California and Japan. Now, Toyota is launching an all-new version for 2016, but cheap gas prices may be just one reason why the Toyota Prius could face its biggest challenge yet, industry experts warn.

The market has been flooded with hybrid competitors since the Toyota Prius was last redesigned in 2009, along with a variety of other high-mileage options. Meanwhile, sales of battery-based vehicles, in general, have been plunging this year. That helps explain why Toyota is downplaying fuel economy and putting more of an emphasis on the other attributes of the new Prius, including what it promises will be a more fun-to-drive road manner.

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The new model “has a certain presence to it that will appeal to a broader range of buyers,” said Bill Fay, general manager of the Toyota brand in the U.S., following the unveiling of the fourth-generation Prius Tuesday night in Las Vegas.

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Toyota Rolls Out 4th Generation Prius, Promises 10% Mileage Increase

2016 Prius is longer, wider, lower - but more conventional in styling.

by on Sep.09, 2015

The 4th generation Toyota Prius rolls out during a splashy preview in Las Vegas Thursday night.

Amidst the glitter and glow of the neon-lit Las Vegas Strip, Toyota put the emphasis on energy efficiency as it unveiled the eagerly anticipated, fourth-generation Prius hybrid Tuesday night.

The world’s first battery-electric vehicle, the Toyota Prius has helped usher in a new era of advanced powertrain technology, but the compact model has been losing momentum at a time when cheap gas has many buyers migrating back to SUVs, pickups and muscle cars. Toyota is again boosting the fuel economy of the Prius, but the 2016 hybrid also is longer, lower, wider and a little more mainstream in appearance.

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“It’s going to expand our appeal,” said Bill Fay, general manager of the Toyota brand in the U.S. Where the original model largely targeted a “practical buyer concerned about fuel economy,” the 2016 Prius “that will appeal to a broader range of buyers.”

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Toyota Set to Unveil All-New Prius

New model expected to be larger, more sophisticated, more fuel-efficient.

by on Aug.19, 2015

It's unclear what Toyota has in mind for the next-gen plug-in version of the Prius.

What goes up must come down, something even the world’s most popular hybrid-electric vehicle has experienced in recent months. So, Toyota officials have reason to be excited as they get ready to reveal an all-new version of the Prius next month.

Like virtually all battery-based vehicles, sales of the Prius has been hit by low gas prices in recent months, but it remains the world’s most popular hybrid – and one of the best sellers among all vehicles in the big California market.

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The Toyota Prius hasn’t had a major update in seven years, and early reports suggest the new one will grow longer, get a little more power, improve fuel economy and possible stretch its range in all-electric mode. Some reports indicate an optional lithium-ion battery may also become available on the 2016 Prius.

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Flood of New Hybrids Take Aim at Toyota Prius

Dominant Japanese model tops 3-million sales mark.

by on Jul.08, 2013

The Toyota Prius continues to dominate the hybrid segment...but it is facing some challenges this year.

Once a rare technology limited to a handful of – mostly Japanese – manufacturers, the industry is unleashing a flood of new hybrid vehicles for 2014 covering just about every niche on the market.  Automakers such as BMW, Ford and Hyundai hope their latest offerings will finally give them the momentum they need to take on the hybrid segment’s best-selling brand, Toyota, which underscored its dominance with the sale of its 3 millionth Prius last month.

For many potential buyers around the world, in fact, the Toyota Prius is no longer a niche vehicle.  The gas-electric hatchback may be the most popular hybrid in the U.S. – routinely outselling all other hybrids combined — but in Japan it is now the best-selling vehicle overall.

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“They’ve turned it into an iconic status of fuel efficiency – whether you love it or hate it,” says Dave Sullivan, automotive analyst with AutoPacific, Inc.  “It’s the benchmark of hybrids.”

That said, 2013 could be a challenging year for Prius. A senior Toyota official cautions that the hybrid might fall short of its sales targets, something that certainly wouldn’t upset competitors like Honda.

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Ford Takes Aim at Prius V with C-MAX

Automaker prices hybrid model below the Toyota, says it will be more efficient.

by on May.18, 2012

The Ford is taking aim at the Toyota Prius v with the C-MAX Hybrid and C-MAX Energi.

Ford is taking direct aim at the Toyota Prius v with its new C-MAX Hybrid, announcing that the vehicle would provide better fuel economy and have a lower base price when it goes on sale as a 2013 model.

The company said dealers are not taking orders for the C-MAX, which it says will be the most fuel efficient of a new breed of vehicles it is calling hybrid utility vehicles.

From Small to Big!

In addition to the hybrid model, later in the year, Ford will introduce the C-MAX Energi, a plug-in hybrid, which it also claims will be more efficient in electric-only mode and have a longer electric driving range than the coming Prius plug-in hybrid.

The C-MAX Hybrid will carry a base price of $25,995, although the company did not say if that includes destination charges.

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Japanese Makers Hiring Thousands to Make up for Lost Production

Toyota, Honda alone will add up to 5,000 temporary jobs.

by on Jun.22, 2011

Toyota is struggling to make up production of the Prius lost due to Japan's March 11 earthquake and tsunami.

With operations at most of Japan’s automotive supplier and assembly plants starting to return to normal, manufacturers are putting out the Help Wanted signs as they race to make up for lost production.

Toyota and Honda alone expect to add up to 5,000 temporary workers in a bid to boost their output during the second half.  Other makers, including Nissan, plan to hire new workers, as well.

Insight!

Toyota now hopes that it can add an extra 350,000 vehicles to its assembly schedule during the second half of the fiscal year ending next March, said Senior Managing Director Takahiko Ijichi, which would reduce its overall production losses to about 450,000 cars, trucks and crossovers.

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Toyota Reports Dealers Down to 4 days of Prius Inventory

Though overall hybrid sales sliding, Toyota officials hope for strong launch of new Prius v.

by on Jun.21, 2011

The debut of the Prius v has been pushed back about two months because of the Japanese earthquake.

While its factories are rapidly getting back up to full speed following the devastating March earthquake in Japan, Toyota dealers are struggling to meet demand for the popular Prius with barely a “three to four-day supply” of the world’s best-selling hybrid model, a senior official said.

 

By comparison, makers consider a 50 to 60-day supply to be normal for most products.  The shortfall likely resulted in a 30 to 40% shortfall in sales of the Prius during May, said Toyota’s hybrid marketing manager Ed LaRoque.

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The crisis, which all but shut down Toyota production the first month after the March disaster—and continues to leave its plants running below capacity — has also forced the maker to delay the launch of its new Prius v, the first in a “family” of hybrids to share the same brand identity as the original Toyota model.  According to La Roque, the debut of the v, a larger, wagon-like take on the familiar hybrid sedan, will be “a few months behind,” and probably won’t reach U.S. showrooms until around October. The maker is meanwhile hoping to start rebuilding supplies of the original Prius over the next several months.

 

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Toyota Prius Plug-in Model to Get Selectable EV Mode

Japanese maker taking steps to enhance new model’s relatively limited range.

by on Jun.16, 2011

The Toyota Prius Plug-in makes its official debut at the Detroit Auto Show earlier this year.

When Toyota brings the 2012 Prius Plug-in Hybrid to market next year, the vehicle will include several features designed to get the maximum mileage on battery power, including a switch that will let the driver decide when to run in electric vehicle mode and when to operate as a more conventional hybrid.

The maker hopes that will help overcome the limitations of a small lithium-ion battery pack that is expected to deliver only about 13 miles in EV mode, or just over a third of the zero-emissions range of the Chevrolet Volt plug-in that came to market last December.

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Industry analysts have raised questions about the benefits of a plug-in with only 13 miles range, though Toyota Vice President Bob Carter has defended the decision, insisting that is enough for many motorists,  especially since the Japanese maker hints it will price the Prius Plug-in well below the roughly $40,000 –before federal tax credits – Chevy gets for its battery car.  That hefty premium over a similarly-sized Chevrolet Cruze has also drawn criticism and led the General Motors division to lower its price tag by more than $1,000 on the 2012 Volt.

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Toyota Delaying Launch of Prius V, Preparing to Shut Some U.S. Plants

Parts shortages worsen in wake of quake, tsunami, nuclear disaster.

by on Mar.24, 2011

Toyota CEO Akio Toyoda with the Prius V hybrid during the Detroit Auto Show preview of the microvan.

Still struggling to get its Japanese plants up-and-running, Toyota has now delayed the planned April launch of its all-new Prius V.  The maker has also warned workers it may soon be forced to temporarily idle some of its North American assembly lines.

The hybrid microvan was to begin the roll-out of an all-new brand-within-a-brand sharing the familiar Prius badge that currently graces the world’s most popular hybrid-electric vehicle.  At last January’s Detroit Auto Show, Toyota revealed several models that will also be badged Prius, including both the V, a smaller Prius C, and a plug-in hybrid based on the current Prius sedan.

But the home market roll-out of the Prius V is being delayed indefinitely as a result of the worsening shortage of Japanese-made parts.  Toyota plants in Japan have been out of operation since March 11, when the island nation was slammed by a devastating 9.0-magnitude earthquake and subsequent tsunami.

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The natural disaster damaged or destroyed a number of component plants and disrupted roads and rail supply lines.  Complicating matters, the crisis Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear plant has created an energy shortage that has made it difficult to operate even those factories not directly impacted by the quake and tsunami.

Toyota officials continue to delay the restart of their Japanese plants and have meanwhile trimmed back production at their “transplant” North American assembly lines.  The maker is now advising workers here that some plants may need to be completely idled until the flow of Japanese parts can be resumed — or alternative sources found.

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