Toyota Moves Forward with Affordable Subcompact Hybrid
Toyota will introduce a small hybrid that could cost less and offer higher mileage than any other hybrid currently on the market. Detroit News reported last week that the Toyota subcompact hybrid will go into production in Japan in late 2011 and arrive in US showrooms in early 2012.
The Japanese automaker will unveil a concept version of the car on Jan. 11, 2010, the first day of the North American International Auto Show in Detroit. The debut of the hybrid concept in Detroit will provide concrete details about the car, nearly a year after news of a lower-priced Toyota subcompact hybrid was first reported in March 2009 by Japan’s Nikkei business daily.
“We are developing a low-priced hybrid vehicle like Honda’s Insight,” Akihiko Otsuka, chief engineer of the third-generation Toyota Prius, told Nikkei. “We are going to compete by expanding our hybrid-vehicle lineup to smaller hybrids, in the class of the Vitz [sold in Japan] and Yaris.”
The company has not yet revealed if the subcompact hybrid concept will be a hybrid version of an existing car, such as the Toyota Yaris, if it will use the Prius name, or if it will be a original nameplate. Toyota issued two teaser images showing details of the car.
In recent years, Toyota has expanded its US hybrid lineup to seven vehicles——three Toyota vehicles and four with Lexus badges. But none have come close to the Toyota Prius in popularity. Many observers believe that the price of hybrids must come down before reaching mainstream buyers. Earlier this year, Honda introduced the 2010 Honda Insight in an effort to make hybrids affordable. But the Insight’s combination of a $20,000 price tag and average city/highway mileage of 41 mpg did not win hybrid shoppers from the 50-mpg Prius, which commonly sells in the mid-$20,000 range.
According to Detroit News, Toyota plans to annually produce around 150,000 of the future subcompact hybrid, which the paper says could exceed 50 miles to the gallon. Toyota has not yet hinted about pricing.