In developing car markets like China and India, the short-term strategy for carmakers seems to be “small, cheap and fuel-efficient.” Fully electric powertrains are expected to catch on eventually, but where the intermediary step for the United States is expected be hybrids—and turbocharged diesels in Europe—small, 4-cylinder engines that deliver high MPGs at a low cost are the name of the game in most of Asia.
It’s for this reason that the Toyota Prius, which in America and Japan has been one of the most influential vehicles on the market for the better part of a decade, only came to India last year. When it did, it was priced and marketed more as a high-priced luxury car than an everyday vehicle for the country’s emerging middle class.
But while the Prius was never expected to be major seller in India—just 80 vehicles sold in three months—a dedicated hybrid version of the Etios small car marketed specifically for that market, is apparently on the horizon. While production numbers are yet to be announced, the fact that Toyota is premiering a new hybrid in India suggests that the carmaker is confident in its sales potential. Toyota is yet to announce whether the car will be available in other markets.
The price tag is another big question mark. If Toyota has managed to bring costs down to the point that the fuel savings associated with the vehicle actually surpass its “hybrid premium,” the Etios could be an important player. If not, the car will more likely be just another green also-ran. The gasoline version of the Etios is expected to sell 65,000 units next year.