2010 Prius Raises the Gas-Electric Hybrid Bar

By dancurranjr On March 3rd, 2009

priusxThe 2010 Toyota Prius will be the highest mileage retail vehicle available in the U.S. when it goes on sale in April, Toyota Motor Corp. said today.

The third-generation Prius will get 49 miles per gallon on the highway and 50 mpg in the city, for a combined average of 50 mpg, according to EPA testing, said Bob Carter, vice president and general manager of Toyota Motor Sales.

“When the Prius arrives it will face two challenges,” Carter said. “The economy and the Honda Insight.”

Toyota, at least, believes it can handle Honda.

“Initially, there may be some cross shopping between the two vehicles but we think that will end quickly,” said Doug Coleman, Prius marketing manager, “They are two very distinctly different vehicles and customers will pick one or the other.”

Honda Motor Co., which is launching a similar shaped gas-electric hybrid vehicle this spring, will offer a smaller and less expensive vehicle compared with the new Prius.

Carter said Toyota believes there will be enough room in the market for both vehicles, suggesting that the Prius could capture 7 percent of the midsize segment and Honda could take 5 percent of the compact segment.

“We expect to sell about 100,000 units in 2009 and 180,000 during the first calendar year,” he said.

Ed Kim, an industry analyst for AutoPacific Inc., said Toyota should be able to reach those goals, even with the economic downturn, which has seen auto sales plummet and carmakers struggle.

“The Prius is the car people think of when they think of hybrids,” Kim said. “It should continue to have strong sales.”

Toyota’s market research shows that 90 percent of Prius owners say their next car will be a Prius, Coleman said.

Toyota has sold more than 700,000 Prius cars in America since it launched the vehicle in U.S. as a 2001 model. It has sold 1.2 million units around the world.

Toyota has added a host of technological features and slightly increased the car’s size. More than 90 percent of the drivetrain has been newly developed with significant changes that lighten or shrink the size of major components, said Prius chief engineer Akihiko Otsuka.

The new Prius will use a 1.8-liter four-cylinder engine and electric motors to power the vehicle, and the new model features additional power.

It can run at slower speeds under electric power only and uses the gasoline engine and the electric motor to drive at higher speeds.

Toyota overhauled the five-door sedan inside and out. It features a number of high-tech features such as solar panels on the roof that power a system to cool the car’s interior when it is parked in the sun.

The iconic hybrid remains the centerpiece of Toyota’s hybrid campaign.

By 2012, Toyota will have 10 hybrid models available. He added that Toyota will field 150 plug-in hybrids this year to universities and other testing facilities to determine if they are viable.

“Based on this testing, we will determine where to move next,” Carter said.

SOURCE: DetNews.com

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