Toyota is moving closer to creating an entire line of vehicles carrying the Prius name— as a way to leverage the success of the Toyota Prius as the icon of hybrids.
In an interview with Automotive News, Toyota’s top U.S. executive, Jim Lentz, president of Toyota Motor Sales U.S.A, confirmed earlier reports that a family of hybrid vehicles using the Prius badge could be underway.
In the past few years, Toyota tried to promote its Hybrid Synergy Drive technology as a brand—with Toyota and Lexus hybrids carrying its badge. But the impact was not clear. The unique nature of Prius as a hybrid-only vehicle appears stronger in the market. Prius represents more than half of all hybrid sales.
“Try as we might to ingrain Hybrid Synergy Drive with consumers, what really stuck was Prius,” Lentz said in an interview. “So rather than spend millions more driving Hybrid Synergy Drive on Highlander or Camry, I think the consumer is telling us they like the idea of Prius.”
The concept would be to set up a Scion-like system of vehicles, mimicking Toyota’s youth-oriented brand. For instance, the company could create a Prius-badged family of products to add to the current five-door hatchback, Lentz said. A two-door coupe, a wagon or a commuter car would be ikely additions. Lentz added that Toyota is not considering making Prius a stand-alone sales network, like Scion.
Toyota will soon face increased competition from arch-rival Honda, which is introducing its own dedicated hybrid next year at a price-point well below that of the Prius. Honda will soon follow with two additional small affordable hybrids.
When will a family of Priuses arrive? Lentz would not discuss timing of Prius derivatives. “There is nothing in the pipeline,” Lentz said. “It all depends on our resources and when we can make it happen. The longer gas is at four dollars, the greater likelihood [these vehicles] will bubble to the top.”