The largest Japanese automaker has just unveiled the fourth generation Prius hybrid – the world’s best selling model in the segment – and it now wants to start selling the new version starting with the end of the year in Japan first.
The automaker has reserved its home market as the first one to receive the all new Prius petrol-electric hybrid before the end of the year and other regions will follow afterwards – though its launch doesn’t come under auspicious times as gasoline prices fall and demand for green vehicles has been plunging because of increased consumer interest in SUVs, crossovers and pickup trucks. The updated Prius will have a smaller, lighter motor and better batteries and come with increased fuel efficiency by at least 10 percent – according to the automaker, though no figures have been advanced yet. The outgoing model had an EPA rating of 51 miles per gallon. But the company did say the percentage of thermal efficiency – the ratio of work done to energy expended – will go up from 38.5 percent to 40 percent now.
The model has been introduced in Las Vegas late on Tuesday and will be the first Toyota product using the Toyota New Global Architecture (TNGA) strategy, the new company masterplan to handle vehicle improvements partly by also using an increased number of common components. The green vehicle will come at a precarious time for the segment in the United States especially, where gasoline prices have plunged and passenger cars have been deserted in favor of crossovers, SUVs and pickup trucks – Prius sales have dropped 24 percent in August. And other automakers are mitigating the effects on environmentally friendly vehicles – Chevrolet has decided to only sell its next generation Volt plug-in hybrid in states where such models sell well – California and a few others.