It's an icon, whether we like it or not.
The Toyota Prius is the car that made the brand famous for efficiency and put hybrids on the map. In the years since its 1997 launch, the hybrid has evolved a lot. The one thing that hasn't really changed is how hideous it is, but with numerous additional variants bringing a little more style to the party, it has matured in a way that isn't wholly offensive. But is it still relevant when the brand has finally joined the all-electric revolution with the bZ4X? Furthermore, why stick with the regular Prius when you can get a Corolla Hybrid that has the same excellent mileage in a better-styled package? As much as we'd like to say that Toyota is finally moving on, it seems that 2023 will bring with it a new, fifth generation of the hybrid econobox.
Autocar spoke to product and marketing chief Andrea Carlucci about the importance of the Prius in Toyota's lineup and its future, to which the following response was received: "It remains the pioneer into electrification - and has been clearly, for Toyota, an icon. It started our journey back more than 25 years ago. It has to keep a role, and we have to make sure it will always be a front-runner with that kind of technology, so - although I can't disclose much - we don't want to waste our icon, even for the future." This tells us that the decision to keep the Prius going is more about the universal awareness of hybrid technology that the model helped to bring about, and Toyota sees immense value in its appeal as a marketing tool.
However important the Prius is for marketing, it is also valuable for its more widespread feasibility. EV charging stations are still in short supply across the globe, and Toyota doesn't want to lose any buyers who may still consider the hybrid Prius and plug-in hybrid Prius Prime over a full EV. "When we look at Europe," explains Carlucci, "we define a region where we might have an acceleration; but globally, as we try to demonstrate the different solutions, we still have a center of gravity around the hybrid. So the Prius remains clearly iconic and stands for what we are: hybrid and a leader in electrification."
Sadly, we still have no details on what the next Prius will offer, but Toyota is working on a new E3 architecture that will be able to accommodate both hybrids and EVs. With solid-state batteries set to make Toyota's hybrids better than ever, maybe there is a case for keeping the Prius alive after all.