Speaking from the sidelines of the LA Auto Show, Toyota marketing executive Bill Fay said the company is weighing whether to include its pending fuel cell sedan into the Prius family.
Earlier last week the company unveiled the FCV Concept in Tokyo as a precursor to a 2015 production version to be launched around infrastructure in California and other states that follow California’s zero-emission rules.
The name Prius is laden with significance both to Toyota and its customers. The automaker has come close to making the Prius into its own brand, and it is already effectively a sub-brand with four models now.
Further, its “Hybrid Synergy Drive” powertrain is to be adopted into a variant model for just about every Toyota and Lexus model offered, but Fay said the choice is still up in the air.
“We haven’t totally decided on a name, but it’ll be interesting to see if we can leverage the Prius name or not,” Fay said in an interview with AutoGuide.com. “We’ve been debating that a lot within the company.”
Fay told AutoGuide that the Prius brand means a lot to customers, and a fuel cell vehicle could fit right in.
He did not say that if Toyota did it, the FCV would be the only Prius with very little in common under the hood with the rest of its siblings.
So, what’s the tie-in?
“People equate Prius to a lot of things, it has a positive name out there regarding technology, innovative products and environmental friendliness,” he said. “Fuel Cell is a little different, but we’ve done some work to see if we can leverage the Prius brand and use it with fuel cell technology, or if the car will have a different name.”
Fay likened the its FCV to the original Prius launched in the U.S. in 2000, and in Japan in 1997. The company won’t be first to market with its FCV but is seeing enormous upside potential with its brand cachet form the “iconic” Prius.
“Potentially it really has a lot of positives similar to the Prius. When we launched the Prius over ten years ago, everyone was like ‘what is this thing?’ and now we’ve sold five million hybrids,” said Fay, adding, “We’re very positive about the potential of the vehicle, primarily because it has zero emissions, it has outstanding range and takes only a couple of minutes to fill up the hydrogen tank.”