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.