Toyota is cashing in on the success of its Prius hybrid by launching a new sub-brand to include a more spacious five-seat MPV and a new supermini.
The MPV, called Prius V, and the supermini, called Prius C Concept, have been launched at today’s Detroit motor show and will join the standard five-door hatchback and its plug-in variant in the four-strong Prius family of vehicles in North America.
Toyota has racked up almost one million Prius sales in 10 years in the US alone and sees the name as a prize asset having becoming almost a by-word for hybrids.
The Prius C Concept will provide the inspiration for a Yaris-sized Prius supemini that will launch in North America in the first half of 2012, a car Toyota claims will be the most efficient and best value hybrid car in any segment yet.
Toyota is keen to offer an even more efficient smaller hybrid at a lower price point and to that end will aim the production version of the C Concept at “young singles and couples who want an eco-sensitive, high-mileage, fun-to-drive Prius”.
Its modern styling takes cues from both the standard Prius and the recently refreshed Vitz (Yaris) supermini in Japan albeit with a much more striking front end. The Prius’s slippery shape has been successfully scaled down to supermini proportions, although concept car features such as its heavily sculpted bonnet, big chrome-effect alloys, large glass rear screen and headlight design are unlikely to carry over into production.
Whether the C Concept has a future in Europe is not clear. The firm has already confirmed a hybrid version of the Yaris for Europe in 2012, and it is not thought Toyota would want two cars competing against one another in a segment.
Technical details have also not been revealed at this stage. It’s unlikely that the Yaris will be able to accommodate the 1.8-litre petrol engine from the Prius and Auris powertrains. But Toyota does have 1.33 and 1.0-litre motors at its disposal.
The Prius V is also unlikely to have a future in Europe, given the presence of the Verso in Toyota’s European range. “A hybrid Verso would be ideal,” said a Toyota source, “but that won’t happen for now as it’s mid life-cycle. We don’t want to be importing cars to Europe that could steal sales in a segment we already cover. The US doesn’t have anything like the Verso, so a Prius MPV makes sense, filling in a gap in the model range with a name people know.”