Hybrid Invasion of Europe Begins with Auris Hybrid

Toyota begins selling the Auris Hybrid in the U.K. on July 1. This is a milestone for a number of important reasons.

First, it’s the first time a full hybrid has been targeted for the heart of the European market. The Auris—which uses the same technical architecture as the Toyota Prius— is a mainstream economical model, with a position in the market roughly similar to the Corolla. The hybrid version is very similar to the conventional Auris. The main differences are: lower ride height for better aerodynamics (0.28 Cd); reshaped bumpers and longer rear spoiler (also for aero); and a smaller gas tank and trunk to accommodate the nickel metal hydride battery pack. Cosmetic changes include a chrome grille, LED driving lights and hybrid blue-tint badges.

Why else is it important? Because the Auris Hybrid is the first full hybrid—at least according to Toyota—to be produced in Europe, specifically for the European market. The Auris Hybrid went into production earlier this month in Burnaston, England. (Actually, Volkswagen began building the Touareg Hybrid in Slovakia in April.)

Europe has historically preferred diesels to hybrids, as a green fuel efficiency choice—but this marks the beginning of a shift to hybrids. The Auris Hybrid could help Toyota bypass FIAT to become Europe’s low-CO2 champion. The Auris hybrid’s CO2 output is just 89 gram per kilometer.

The Auris Hybrid is not just an afterthought. It’s central to Toyota’s Europe strategy. Toyota expects to the hybrid version to account for one-quarter of Auris sales this year. That means 14,000 units, growing to 30,000 starting in 2011. By 2015, Toyota wants hybrids to make up 50 percent of its model range in Europe.

Implications for the United States

The introduction of Aura Hybrid could ripple across the pond. The U.S. market is lacking a compact hybrid hatchback—and Toyota is lacking any kind of compact hatchback. Yes, in 2011, Honda will launch the Fit Hybrid, and Toyota will offer the Lexus CT200h hybrid. If Toyota brings over the Auris Hybrid, maybe rebadged as a Prius Junior, U.S. car shoppers could have at least a trio of small hybrid hatchbacks to choose from.

Could Toyota push down the price tag of a U.S. Aura Hybrid to $19,000 or lower? Could they configure the car to break 50 mpg? Could the design be modified with some of the Prius’s DNA for those that like a unique eco-friendly appearance? If yes to all the above, Toyota could have the first serious option for hybrid affordability.


  • Charles

    “Could the design be modified with some of the Prius’s DNA for those that like a unique eco-friendly appearance?”

    I know that journalists talk about people wanting a unique hybrid look, but I have yet to find one. I know a lot of Prius owners and a couple of Insight owners. When I have asked about the looks, the unique look was more often a negative.

    The Prius is the number one selling hybrid for a few reasons, but looks is not one of them. High MPGs, efficient hatchback design, lots of passenger room and Toyota’s reputation for reliability are what make the Prius such a run away success.

  • Norma

    I doubt that Toyota will bring a compact size competitor only to undercut the price and compete for sales of Prius.

  • Norma

    “The Auris Hybrid went into production earlier this month in Burnaston, England. (Actually, Volkswagen began building the Touareg Hybrid in Slovakia in April.)”

    BTW, at least according to Toyota, it’s talking about hybrids produced in Europe, for the European market. Does VW make Touareg hybrid for the European market only?
    I thought VW is supposed to bring that hybrid to the U.S. some time in 2011. Am I wrong?

  • Anonymous

    solar panel (see picture) is larger than the prius, not sure how functional it will be. this seems to be a close comparison to the announced honda fit hybrid… needs more facts and figures for comparison (price, efficiency, etc)

  • ms

    Auris hybrid is beetween Prius and Yaris. It is not comparable to Honda fit.

  • Dom

    A couple comments.

    “The main differences are: lower ride height for better aerodynamics (0.28 Cd); reshaped bumpers and longer rear spoiler (also for aero)”

    First, why don’t they do this to all Auris models? Why just the hybrid? If it really makes much difference then I think this is a misleading inflation of a hybrid powertrain’s fuel economy benefit.

    “Europe has historically preferred diesels to hybrids, as a green fuel efficiency choice—but this marks the beginning of a shift to hybrids.”

    Wow, talk about counting the chickens before they hatch, i.e. making an assumption about sales success. What if it doesn’t sell well? From what I’ve heard the Prius hasn’t done very well in Europe, so what makes the author of this article so sure that this one will?

  • Anonymous

    > Wow, talk about counting the chickens before they hatch

    Just talk to any European – you will get from probably 95% of the people that Diesel is superior and that they don’t even want to look at this ‘new’ hybrid technology since Diesel gets similar mpg numbers (which might be true now, but it will get better and better – Diesel technology improved over many many years, hybrid technology will also get better and better). My feeling is Hybrids have to get way more efficent to be accepted in Europa

  • Anonymous

    I agree that hybrids have a long way to go for acceptance in Europe. Maybe Auris is just an ice-breaker.

    Auris is 4.5 inches longer than the Fit, and less than 2 inches wider.

  • Alexei

    If you look at the http://www.toyota.co.uk web site, you will see that Prius prise starts at almost 20 000£ which is almost 30 000$, in US same Prius starts at almost 23 000$ (according to the http://www.toyota.com) which is almost 7 000$ difference. New Auris Hybrid starts at almost 19 000£ (almost 28 500$).
    Diesel Yaris with manual gear box (which is the most popular in Europe) will cost you around 14 800£ (almost 22 000$), it will give you 109 g/km CO2, a little bit more than Prius and new Auris Hybrid, but it is still cheaper to buy and you pay less interest on the car loan.
    Yes I know that diesel Yaris is much smaller and less comfortable, but for the price difference it is great value for the money.
    By the way petrol version is around 11 000£ (16500$), consumes a little bit more, but is cheap to by and get 120 g/km of CO2.

  • simon@syd

    Its all down to the price. Hybrids are too expensive. Alexei – I’m guessing theres no Diesel Auris? – It would make an interesting comparison. The car companies are wary of making it easy to compare cars with different drivetrains, but everything else the same.

  • ms

    In europe honda fit is a great car, but is on the yaris segment. Auris es at the same level as honda civic 5 doors.

  • Alexei

    Hi simon@syd. In UK there is a Diesel Auris, which costs around 17 000£ (~25500$) with 125 g/km CO2 (4.7 L/100km). A Petrol Auris would cost 15 000£ (22500$) with 135 g/km CO2 (5.7 L/100km). There is also a big difference in interest rates on car loans for different versions. For example for Petrol Auris 1.3 L5, 6 speed gear box it will be 3.5% APR, but for Auris Hybrid it is 9.9% APR and for Diesel version it is 5.9% APR.

    If you look into my previous post, you will notice that hybrids in the UK are 1.5 times more expansive than in the US. Plus car loans are more expensive on hybrids/diesel than on petrol models. I think such price difference is the main factor that in US there is a greater adoption of hybrids than in the UK.

    In the rest of the Europe it could be different (like in Germany where diesel is a lot cheaper than petrol, in UK it is almost the same now, but used to be 15% more expensive).

  • Peter

    I think future is great for Toyota with hybrid technology because they are first in it. And they wanted to increase the production of hybrid cars in ratio of 5o% more till 2015. In the Europe market it will have a tough competition with Honda Fit. But still the prices of the hybrid cars are too expensive. It will have to come down to make a success.

  • Gary Gardner

    There is no doubt that the Toyota hybrids represent the future in green propulsion systems for cars. In my opinion all electric cars are dead in the water due to their restricted rasnge without recharging.
    It seems grossly unfair that the UK Government is offering £5000 subsidies for all electric – whilst hybrids receive nothing! Being cynical – maybe the Government knows that the uptake of all electric cars will be low so it can afford to offer this subsidy whereas the uptake of the hybrids has been high – and therefore not affordable at this moment in time.