• Aug 15th 2007 at 5:21PM
  • 11


Our friends at J. D. Power and Associates are reporting that sales of "conventional" hybrids, though strong, are probably not expanding because of the increased awareness of the upcoming plug-In versions that are now in the works. Perhaps there are other distractions as well: relatively stable gasoline prices; large discount programs on other vehicles, and the fact that the Prius - though clearly successful at indicating its owner's "lifestyle choice" - has never been exactly a beauty queen.

After all, the car looks high and narrow and backseat headroom is less than desirable for some (me). Also, the smaller tires don't do well for the proportions of the car. They don't have to be racing slicks but they need to be more substantial. Right now, they look like the Prius drove through a puddle and the tires shrank.

On the other hand, Toyota has announced a drop in first cost from about $22,200 in 2007 to $20,950 in 2008 for a slightly decontented version. Sounds like a good incentive to me. A new owner can buy some more substantial wheels and tires for the car with the savings.

[Source: Bobit Publications]



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    • 1 Second Ago
  • 11 Comments
      • 8 Years Ago
      I think most understand that this car requires these small, relatively skinny wheels to be as efficient as it is. Having said that these wheels would not be out of place in the 50s, but they do look rather odd considering today's 'normal' cars. Of more concern to me is the fact that the Prius requires 152 feet to stop from 60 mph largely due to these tires (reduced contact patch and lower traction limits of the low-rolling resistance tires). This is as bad (or worse) than many SUVs and Minivans. Considering my current small, sporty car requires only 110 feet to stop from the same 60 feet I do my very best to make sure I'm not being followed closely by one of these or I will have an unwanted visitor in my rear cargo area if I have to brake hard :(

      I am hopeful that the next version of the Prius has improved performance stats (in all areas) since a car that has stable, balanced handling, excellent brakes and at least brisk midrange acceleration has a much better chance of avoiding emergency situations.
      • 8 Years Ago
      I think the levelling-off of hybrid growth rates has more to do with other factors:

      - the novelty of conventional hybrid propulsion is wearing off, new buyers can no longer claim to be in the vanguard of a technological revolution. Plug-in hybrids and pure BEVs are coming, but so far they are vaporware and/or retrofit kits for enthusiasts.

      - hybrid customers still want public recognition for the premium they paid for the sake of national energy security and/or redued CO2 emissions, both arguably contributions to the common good. Hybrid versions of conventional cars are cheaper to build but with just a small badge to distinguish them, harder to recognize as such.

      - tax incentives and carpool stickers for the most popular and recognizable hybrid, the Toyota Prius, are sharply down or unavailable.

      - most carmakers presumably still lose money on each hybrid sold. Toyota has benefitted from the Prius primarily in terms of goodwill toward the whole brand, especially in the crucial 18-34 demographic. In that sense, it was and remains primarily a marketing vehicle in the literal sense of the word.

      - some customers may be holding off to see if clean diesel will prove real and a cost-effective alternative to full hybrids. This applies especially to the largest, heaviest LDVs. Cargo space is definitely greater in a diesel, because batteries need a lot of room.

      - certain politically and/or socially conservative consumers appreciate the fuel economy benefits of hybrids but want nothing to do with the (sanctimonious) Hollywood types that shill for them. Clean diesel and advanced gasoline engines (cp. M-B's DiesOtto) will give them alternative ways to reduce their fuel consumption.
      • 8 Years Ago
      Hmmm... JD powers says THAT despite the fact that overall hybrid sales are up significantly over last year, while regular car sales are down. Interesting.

      And then, the post turns into Prius bashing.... ...go ahead and do that if it makes you feel better about your sorrows at the gas pump, but just keep in mind that the Prius is now in the top 10 selling cars in the US. Obviously lots of people don't agree with you.

      You certainly have your right to think the Prius is ugly, but surveys showed that many people buy the Prius (instead of the Civic hybrid) in part because it looks different.

      Mid range acceleration in the Prius is actually quite good. Please do your research before making ignorant statements. Testing showed it was faster in the midrange passing acceleration test than a 2.4 l 157 hp Camry (even though the Prius only has 110hp, but way more torque).

      Sure, the rear headroom isn't that great, but on the other hand, the legroom in the backseat is pretty nice compared to other similar size cars.

      Tires aren't huge, but they did upgrade the tires from small 175/65 R14 LRR tires to regular 185 65 R15 tires when they went from the 2003 to 2004+ model.

      As for emergency handling... sure the Prius doesn't handle like a sports car, but most Prius sold have VSC (vehicle skid control), an important safety feature which many cars in its class don't have.
      • 8 Years Ago
      Contrary to myth, most hybrids are indeed profitable for their makers. Toyota paid off the development costs and started making a profit in 2003 - before the popular 2004 model was introduced! Toyota is extending their hybrid technology to many other models, they wouldn't have done so if it wasn't profitable.

      While some Honda hybrids were discontinued for lack of sales, the Civic hybrid has been profitable and Honda is planning new hybrid models.

      Ford and GM have been more cautious, but both are planning new hybrid models.
      • 8 Years Ago
      Aesthetics and ergonomics matter. (The Prius' 2 big weaknesses)
      • 8 Years Ago
      The 152 ft. braking comes from the same CNET article. I've read quite a few car reviews and the stats have always been quite close between them, so I took this one at face value. Investigating further I found ~125 ft. stopping distance for the 2007 Prius on other sites. I haven't found reliable 30-50 passing numbers, but now that I know the CNET article is inaccurate I'd bet its much better than 7 seconds. I do wonder how many people have been put off from buying a Prius by this particular 2005 article...

      I'm actually very pleased to see that the Prius is a more capable vehicle than I originally thought.
      • 8 Years Ago
      Tire size has gotten out of hand. Those guys at JD Power have a distorted view. Some SUVs and crossovers have such large tire these days the vehicles look 'cartoony'. They look like a giant, kids toy with excaggerated tires. Even a little bump up in tire size can lower mileage on a pickup by 1 so I'm sure it has more effect when dealing with something like the Prius which can get 50-60. So I'd say to JD Power leave Toyota and everyone else who wants some efficiency alone.
      • 8 Years Ago
      Hmmm, interesting how sensitive some Prius drivers are when someone points out their car's short comings. No car is perfect, so get over it please. We could debate forever about whether comparing your Prius's 30-50 mph passing statistics to a bigger, heavier 4 cylinder Camry (as you have done) has any validity considering the majority of similarly priced cars that would handily overtake a Prius. Even the relatively slow (12 sec.+, 0-60 mph) Honda Civic Hybrid posts a faster 30-50 mph passing time (4.9 vs. 7.0 sec. per CNET's testing of both cars in 2005). BTW, I always do my 'homework' ;).

      Moving back to what the original OP has stated The Prius is tall, backseat headroom is tight, the car is not a 'beauty queen' in the eyes of some (many?) and the wheels are relatively small and slim. Fair statements IMO, and I'd add that it has obvious blind spots both front and rear due to the design. On the flip-side, because of this same design the car has excellent frontal aerodynamics, the car gets great gas mileage, pollutes very little and helps to lessen our demand for gasoline, etc.

      So what I see with the Prius line is a car that is steadily evolving towards comparable or superior performance (to similarly priced autos) without sacrificing best-in-class motive efficiency with extremely low emissions.

      • 8 Years Ago
      What difference do the looks make? The point of a Prius is to get from A-B whilst sipping as little fuel as possible, and emitting as little noxious gas as possible. What would you want wider tyres for? To increase rolling resistance and remove the point of getting a Prius in the first place? It's not like they need the extra tyre cooling afforded by wider tyres unless you are continuously trashing it.

      If you want a show pony, buy a corvette.
      • 8 Years Ago
      Yes, I've seen that CNET review too, but I'm pretty sure there's a typo there. Here's a complete comparison, done by Motortrend (not a computer website) which show the Prius to be faster in all acceleration tests (including passing), the braking is the same at 124 ft (so much for that 152 ft number from Ralph), but we do have to give the Civic credit for better handling.
      http://www.motortrend.com/roadtests/hybrid/112_0604_hybrid_sedan_comparison/honda_civic_toyota_prius_specs.html
      Test CivicH Prius
      0-30 3.8 sec 3.4 sec
      0-40 5.9 5.3
      0-50 8.3 7.6
      0-60 11.3 10.5
      0-70 15.4 14.1
      0-80 21.0 19.0
      0-90 na 25.3
      Passing 45-65 MPH 6.1 sec 5.8 sec
      Quarter Mile 18.3 sec@75.9 mph 17.8 sec@77.9 mph
      Braking, 60-0 MPH 124 ft 124 ft
      600-Ft Slalom 62.4 mph avg 60.5 mph avg
      Lateral Acceleration 0.75 g (avg) 0.72 g (avg)
      Mt Figure Eight 29.91 sec @ 0.51 g (avg) 30.0 sec @ 0.51 g (avg
      • 8 Years Ago
      @ Bill: I'm with you completely. Every time I see a Prius, I shutter.

      Ugliest. Car. EVER.