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Fortune's newsstand issue will soon carry the story of the Toyota Prius, and well, we've all heard it before. There are the usual anecdotes of success and failure - "stretch" goals that seemed nearly impossible to meet, engineers who had an idea that'd surely work but was likely too expensive, and real-world test failures that demonstrated the limitation of computer modeling. Essentially, it's a story repeated throughout the auto industry every day.

What's more significant - and the article does a good job of making this point - is simply that the automaker was involved in this whole process. The genius of Toyota's production systems have made itself known over the past two decades, but before the Prius, it's perhaps difficult to see where the automaker had truly produced innovative vehicle design and engineering. This isn't to say anything bad about the company's products; but they simply weren't terribly 'groundbreaking,' and that lack of design leadership was likely to catch up with them as they looked to take a leadership role in the industry. We think it's safe to say that the Prius changed all of that. 



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  • 20 Comments
      bill
      • 9 Years Ago
      sam adams is a loony tune!- how about mentioning that the japanese govt subsidized the battery project with free loans totalling in the $billions in the early 90's - if the u.s. did that- well thats just corporate welfare!!!!
      • 9 Years Ago
      "How many years Cadillac had Northstar engine in its stable, but it never brought to mass market car like say - Chevy Cobalt @ 15K price ?"

      Well, there was the short-lived "shortstar" 3.5L DOHC V6 that was offered in the Oldsmobile Intrigue. That engine died on the vine for a variety of reasons, some yet unexplained.
      • 9 Years Ago
      KarlinSanDiego said:

      [13]. Personally I thought the Honda Insight was a better story.
      1) Car company builds a better car (aluminum=light, low drag coefficent, and far superior mileage)
      2) Sells at incredibly low loss-leader price ($18,000)
      3) Fails to sell in large volume
      4) Pulls the model just as Hybrid bug hits and gas prices soar(thus saving itself $Mil in losses)
      5) Loses all the glory of building the better hybrid.
      6) Focuses on building a slightly better economy Accordian (where they'll actually profit)

      -------

      The Honda Insight is a better mousetrap; the Toyota Prius is a revolution-inspired better mousetrap.

      The Insight is a compact car; the Prius is a mid-size car. The Prius seats five, the Insight only two.
      • 9 Years Ago
      Why should GM or Ford spend money on R&D? They are waaaay too busy pumping money into their next marketing campaign for some sort of ridiculous rebate program. Why should they invest in the PRODUCT? Why not just make more commercials full of catchy phrases for their next gimmicky sales event?
      • 9 Years Ago
      It's all in the execution. "How" they did it is irrelevant, as they most assuredly did make it happen.

      How much was given to GM for their electric vehicle? How much R&D tax dollars go to defense companies? Did you object when the US loaned money to Chrysler (ie, was the corporate "welfare")? And what about the state tax subsidies/rebates for locating a plant in someone's home state? Lots of questions. Not everything is black and white.
      • 9 Years Ago
      But guys- there are other hybrids-the Accord, Insight, Escape-the Prius sells because it says "I'm a Prius, I listen to NPR and hate the Republicans" for about 99% of the purchases.

      For the record-the few times I borrowed my sister's Prius-for drives in and out of NYC during the rush hour-real world mileage was 34 miles per gallon. Kick ass sound system however.

      • 9 Years Ago
      max,

      I've never been able to get the Prius' mileage that low, except for driving to Dallas through an icestorm where I was stuck for 2 hours not moving with the heat on.

      In other words, unless your commute was a hell of a lot more "stop" than "go", and you were running the heat full-blast, I call bullshit.
      • 9 Years Ago
      "I would be interested in the Prius if it could actually top the more economical conventional-gasoline powered cars of the last few years.

      Sadly, it cannot."

      You're a liar.
      • 9 Years Ago
      Eric, well done...

      The idea, concept, and patent is not a Toyota or Honda, even a Japanese innovation...more and more I look into the patents daily, I see a common pattern of those who are the innovators of the automotive world.

      Cleary, I good kudos to the Japanese for using such patents and enhances the patent functionality.

      The future though is not with Hybrids but in Fuel Cell and Diesel technology since it now showing almost a 50-percent increase in MPG over any Hybrid out there.

      I suspect in the end, the Germans will lead evolutionary ideas and designs.
      • 9 Years Ago
      Ted K,

      You're a liar. You're using EPA figures for those 1980s cars, and low-ball (not EPA) figures for the Prius. Try again.

      We just got rid of one of those econoboxes from the 80s (bare-bones Civic hatchback, manual trans). I got 36 in it in combined driving (no A/C either). Our Prius averages around 49 and is huge in comparison.
      • 9 Years Ago
      "The Prius, even people who aren't particularly fond of it, is the "VW Bug" of our era. "

      I meant to say that their are alot of people who don't like the Prius-but they've got to admit-it's the VW Bug of our era. It's something people will point to in 30 years when VH1 is doing a "Hooked on the 00's" special.

      I wonder how many the other manufacturers have dissected?
      • 9 Years Ago
      How about that engine-battery-motor-drive unit concepts were pioneered by american companies and that the system that Toyota uses right now was purchased from a design of GM's years and years prior that they couldn't get to work (computers not powerful enough was what my source said)

      BTW before we start with the 'prove it comments' my source is an engineer at toyota that went on to be the head of the New York region of the toyota coporation.
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