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Next-generation Toyota Prius to shift focus

To go before: Toyota Australia has suggested the next-generation Prius will debut a technology for the Japanese brand as hybrids become the norm in mass-selling models.

Toyota to keep Prius nameplate alive – but with a new-technology twist: Hanley

Toyota logo13 May 2019

TOYOTA Australia says the Prius nameplate still has a role to play, but it will have to shift its focus from hybrid to a new evolutionary automotive technology as petrol-electric powertrains becoming the norm in the Japanese brand’s model line-up.

 

Speaking to GoAuto last week at the RAV4 national media launch in Adelaide, Toyota Australia vice-president of sales and marketing Sean Hanley said that with the Prius C light hatch, Prius small hatch and Prius V people-mover now facing stiffer competition from hybrids within, the nameplate needed to move on.

 

“When we launched Prius back in October 2001, the Latin meaning of Prius was ‘to go before’, so it was always meant to be a technology leader for the Toyota brand, not only Australia but globally,” he said.

 

“And my view is the Prius nameplate will continue, but it will have a much more reduced model coverage. So, maybe one model, but it will revert back to what its original intent was and that was to showcase new technology.

 

“So, it could be a plug-in hybrid, it could be full electric, it could be a fuel cell, it could be anything. You know what I mean?

 

“You talk about connected, you talk about autonomous. I mean that could be the brand that we use for those types of technology advancements.”

 

Mr Hanley’s comments are consistent with recent reports out of the United States that indicate Prius C will be discontinued in favour of the larger Corolla Hybrid small car, which entered Australian showrooms in new-generation hatch form in August last year. Its sedan counterpart is due later this year.

 

Toyota Australia topped 100,000 hybrid sales last month, with Corolla accounting for 10,600 units and Prius C claiming 9400. The former has been available with petrol-electric power since June 2016, while the latter arrived almost four years beforehand, in March 2012.

 

Like the Prius C, the equally ageing Prius V is also expected to go as a result of lower demand now that the fifth-generation RAV4 mid-size SUV is on sale with hybrid availability, even if it lacks a third row. Either way, both models champion interior space.

 

That leaves the model that started it all, Prius, as the last one standing. It also competes with Corolla Hybrid that is offered with in three hatch variants, as opposed to its predecessor’s one.

 

A plug-in hybrid version of Prius, dubbed Prime, is already available overseas, so it appears that Brand T will instead shift the model’s focus to full electric or fuel cell if powertrain continues to be the point of differentiation. Alternatively, autonomous or connected technology is a strong possibility.

 

For reference, Prius C (161 units, +6.6%), Prius (65, -23.5%) and Prius V (132, +2.3%) have accounted for fewer than 0.6 per cent of Toyota Australia’s 64,753 sales to the end of April this year. Prius received a facelift in March.


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