• Apr 21, 2009
With the introduction of the Honda Insight, Toyota is facing the most serious challenge yet to its hybrid dominance since the Prius debuted. While the Insight's hybrid technology is not as sophisticated as Toyota's, it delivers excellent fuel economy, and more importantly, the Insight has a significant price advantage over the Prius. Given the threat and the current difficulties facing the auto market, Toyota has apparently decided to take up the fight by cutting the base price of the Prius by $1,000 to $21,000, only $1,200 more than the Honda.

Toyota's strategy in Japan was to keep the previous generation Prius in production to compete with the Insight on price. However, when we asked a Toyota spokesman in New York if the company evaluated the same option for the US, we were told Toyota decided against it due to new OBD-II regulations that would have required significant updates to the old Prius, negated any cost advantage. Thanks to Jarret for the tip!

[Source: Bloomberg]


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  • 30 Comments
      • 5 Years Ago
      Don't forget, when the Honda engine shuts off at a stoplight so does the air conditioning compressor. They did away with the electric motor that spins the AC compressor (like on the Civic Hybrid). The Insight does have a seat height adjuster on the drivers seat.

      I have sat in the new Insight and I have to tilt my head to sit in the back seat. Not so with the 2010 Prius, it has much more room in the back for my head and my knees.
        • 5 Years Ago
        I think it had a lever adjuster - it was very awkward and mightily uncomfortable. I couldn't imagine my 6'3" frame sitting in it for very long. There was no leg support behind the knee.
      • 5 Years Ago
      The Volt better be priced competitively otherwise it could lose to the Prius and Insight which are just about half the price.
      • 5 Years Ago
      The Insight EX with freight: $22000. You can now buy an '09 Prius for less than $22000 with auto climate, MP3 input & CD, Backup camera, Stability Control, Smart Key,etc. Midsize Prius with stuff you can't get on the Compact Insight at any price, & 5 MPG better.
      • 5 Years Ago
      There's little comparison between the Insight and Prius. The Prius wins hands down: it's bigger, gets better MPG on the order of 20% more, and is more comfortable to sit in. I sat in both at the NYIAS and the Insight's seats were flat and lacked height adjustment. The new Prius is a generation ahead of the Insight and I don't see why Toyota feels they have to "race to the bottom" like some Southerner to "match" the Insight.

      The current Prius comes pretty well-equipped for $22k, very much so for $24k, and the new one will likely come similarly equipped.
        • 5 Years Ago
        @ Luis

        The Prius wins? For whom? You? It's a loss for Toyota if they have to reduce the price. That in-turn reduces the profit they were original expecting. I dunno how much a Prius costs to build versus an Insight, however, since the Insight was designed to meet a certain price from the inception (smaller, lighter components, reduced battery/electric motor/gasoline engine output, etc), I think Honda will have an easier time meeting its bottom line than Toyota. And if I were looking at a Prius, I wouldn't necessarily want the old one if, for a few grand more, I could get a larger one, with more features and more equipment (I'm not looking, by the way). I'm not every buyer in America, but putting two Prius' out could cannibalize sales of one or the other. At least here in the states. Japan is a very different market for that sort of thing. But Toyota could wind up in a situation where it's producing more old or new Prius' than it's selling, and neither of those sold, old or new, are bringing in the potential profit of the Insight. The best thing, IMHO, would be for Toyota to leave the price as is and hope to outsell the Insight on price alone. Seems extremely premature to cut the base price of the vehicle already.

        This of course is all but one theory and I'm sure someone else has a different perspective, but my point is I don't think Honda's as stupid as people seem to think they are with this new Insight. Chess, not Checkers.
        • 5 Years Ago
        "they have to "race to the bottom" like some Southerner"

        I have no idea what this means.
        • 5 Years Ago
        "they have to "race to the bottom" like some Southerner"

        wow....
        • 5 Years Ago
        Sorry, I meant to say, "And hope to sell more Prius' than Insights on nameplate alone."

        The original Insight blew the Prius away in terms of fuel efficiency but it wasn't as practical. For this reason, Toyota was able to build the Prius name worldwide. The Insight name, despite being a better vehicle than the original Prius, just doesn't have the cache.

        Again, I still feel it's a premature move to slash the price this early on. It's something I'd expect Fisker or Tesla to do as rookies, not a huge vet like Toyota.
      • 5 Years Ago
      The Volt is a non-starter. For 10K more, you can get a sexier, faster Tesla Model S. At that price level, the Tesla is definitely the better buy. GM fails again.

      As for the Insight and Prius, I don't think Toyota dealers will be pushing the stripped down version much. Less profit in it for them.
        • 5 Years Ago
        You write as if an additional 10K will have no affect on what car someone buys. The car market works on smaller price increments than that doesn't it? Every time you see a base Cayman or Boxster instead of an "S" you're looking at someone who probably thought the 10k extra (options cost the same either way) was too much.

        My guess is that the Tesla and the Volt will occupy different market segments just like any other cars that are 10K apart in price. After all, the discussion in this thread has been over whether or not the Prius is worth 3K more than an Insight.
      • 5 Years Ago
      No doubt the Prius will do better than Insight, because not only does it look a lot better, it already has a product name associated with efficiency and environmental respect. The Insight name is less known, and the car quite funky-looking inside and out (versus inside only on the Prius).

      Prius wins this hands down
      • 5 Years Ago
      Still, the Insight is a better vehicle. It offers more features for the vehicle package, negligible MPG's (Once you move up the ladder, a few MPG's is negligible because it is a non-linear measuring unit -- it's been shown), and the big plus is that it is a hybrid that's could count its way into the somewhat fun to drive category. Much unlike the Prius. That's also to say that the Insight has a much better interior than the Prius especially with regards to that funky and utterly retarded center dash.
        • 5 Years Ago
        I'm still baffled as to why "Still, the Insight is a better vehicle". Lower mpg and Cd than the outgoing Civic hybrid and 11city/5hwy lower than the new Prius. Plus your statement "it is a hybrid that's could count its way into the somewhat fun to drive category" is negated by MotorTrends comparison which calls the car noisy and rough handling and states "You'd expect the lighter Insight to be the hands-down handling champ, but its languid steering ratio (3.3 turns lock to lock) and light effort left me (Kim Reynolds) actually preferring our heavier-feeling, faster steering Prius". The comparo goes on to give the nod to the Insight (like yourself) solely on the price point.
      • 5 Years Ago
      We have two cars, both of which will have to be replaced in the next 2-3 years, and while my wife is 5 minutes from work, I have a 90 mile round trip commute, 89 of which is by highway. I'll be looking at both cars and VW diesels.

      I've seen the new Insight and the new Prius and the Insight has all the styling flaws of the last Prius, minimal rear seat room, and a dash that is uglier than the current Civic's, something I didn't think was possible. The Prius at least now looks like a car, has more room than an Insight (midsize vs. compact) as well as better mileage and lower levels of road noise. At this point I'd prefer the Prius or a VW depending on where the price of diesel goes. Whichever one we buy we plan to drive it for ten years.

      As for the price difference, the Prius is quieter and a class larger in interior room and for us, with a child and a dog and road trips to take, would be worth the extra money for that reason alone.

      • 5 Years Ago
      Dustin, dealers will be thrilled to get any Priuses of any variety. They'll be sold from allocation sheets, even before they're assembled.
      • 5 Years Ago
      From Horsepower wars we have now moved to Hybrid wars.
      • 5 Years Ago
      I'm still waiting for official word because there was rumor Toyota would sell the current model alongside the new one and maybe Bloomberg is confused. Surprised they would break the news since the company is very tightlipped with the auto press about these things.

      Also Seminole, Toyota has long ago released standard features. I'm sure Autoblog has it somewhere. We also have it on KickingTires
      http://blogs.cars.com/kickingtires/2009/03/2010-toyota-prius-trim-levels-will-be-confusing.html
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