Toyota will introduce an all-new hybrid-electric vehicle that will share the Prius badge with the maker’s existing 4-door hybrid, the first step in a strategy to turn the Prius name into a green-tinged brand-within-a-brand.
“It will be an all-new model,” said Don Esmond, the senior vice president of automotive operations for Toyota Motor Sales USA, during an appearance before the Automotive Press Association. And it will make its first appearance at the Detroit Auto Show, in January 2011.
While he hinted it will be “more stylish” and “more versatile,” Esmond shied away from offering any other hard details other than to say it will be part of a growing “family” that will share the Prius name with the original hybrid. That Toyota model remains not only the most popular of Toyota’s gas-electric models but accounts for roughly half of all hybrids sold in the United States.
Esmond did suggest there are at least two key niches that Toyota would like to expand the new Prius family into. The first would be a larger model, probably a crossover. The other would be an even smaller and less expensive hybrid offering, which could mean something in the $15,000 range.
The timing of the concept reveal would suggest the new Prius-badged hybrid could make it to market as early as the 2012 model-year.
Expanding the use of the Prius badge is potentially risky, especially if a new model falls short of expectations, but because it has an extremely high consumer awareness factor the approach also offers a potential kick-start for any new model.