Back in its 2000s heyday, the Prius hybrid was as futuristic as it was possible – but today the rest of its rivals caught up and even passed the iconic green vehicle. Toyota and the new generation of the model are working to change that back.
Both the Prius and its Japanese parent are actually at a crossroad this year. Introduced back in 1997, the Prius has fallen out of favor with its Hollywood darlings, with the spotlight taken by fully electric entries such as Tesla’s luxurious Model S performance sedan. Toyota also relegated the success of having the absolute cutting edge of technology to its hydrogen-powered Mirai, backed by President Akio Toyoda. Meanwhile, the company itself is fighting to keep its global leadership position – with Germany’s Volkswagen AG and America’s General Motors inch-close in the rear-view mirror.
The new generation of the iconic Prius hybrid is coming this year and it’s the first product from the strategic Toyota New Global Architecture, or TNGA. “Prius will become more mainstream,” comments Jack Hollis, group vice president of Toyota marketing in the US. “The Mirai gives us a chance to say what the future is even further out.” TNGA is the byproduct of Toyota’s complete strategy rehash – more vehicles will have common platforms, underpinnings and components as the company seeks to reign down on costs by 20 to 30 percent. The proceeds would then be used to reshape the brand image – seen today as reliable, but dull. The new Prius, according to Jim Lentz, Toyota’s North American chief, will ultimately preserve the pioneering, wedge-shape of the hybrid, but the changes will be otherwise obvious.