Toyota has grown the Prius from a single car into a brand with the announcement of a small family vehicle, a plug-in hybrid, and a subcompact concept at the Detroit auto show. The Japanese auto giant is looking to cash in on the Prius’ celebrity, as Toyota has sold more than 955,000 units of the iconic hybrid in the past ten years. “Prius has become to hybrids what Kleenex is to tissues and Levi’s are to jeans,” said Bob Carter, head of the Toyota division in the United States.
The first addition to the Prius family will be a five-passenger MPV called the Prius V set to arrive in the late summer of 2011. By increasing every exterior dimension, Toyota has increased cargo room by more than 50 percent. There’s more legroom in the rear too, thanks to rear seats that slide fore and aft. While the Prius V uses the same powertrain hardware as the current Prius, fuel economy is reduced substantially due to increased weight and aerodynamic drag. The new Prius V is expected to be rated at 42 mpg in the city and 38 mpg on the highway, down from the Prius’ 51/48 mpg. You can read our complete first look of the 2012 Toyota Prius V in our Detroit auto show coverage.
Toyota is calling the Prius C subcompact a concept, but it will inspire a production car that will go on sale in the first half of 2012. When it arrives, it will be both the most affordable and most fuel efficient hybrid without a plug. To achieve those claims, the production Prius C will have to beat the Honda Insight’s $18,950 starting price and the 51/48 mpg rating of Toyota’s own Prius.
The fourth family member is the Prius Plug-in Hybrid with an electric range of 13 miles at speeds up to 60 mph. Once the lithium-ion battery is drained, the plug-in hybrid performs like a conventional Prius, running on gasoline with assistance from the electric motor. Recharging the battery requires three hours on a 110-volt line and about 1.7 hours with 220-volt service. When it goes on sale in the first half of 2012, The Prius Plug-in will be sold in just fourteen states (Arizona, California, Connecticut, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia, and Washington). Those states currently account for about 60 percent of Prius sales in the United States. The rest of the country will be able to buy the Prius Plug-in Hybrid a year later, in early 2013.