Automotive News today has an explanation for the delays in getting new Toyota models (like the new Prius) to showrooms: decreasing quality.
AN's Mark Rechtin is reporting (subs req'd) that Toyota is slowing down its product development in order to "build more prototype vehicles, hire more engineers and spend more money in an effort to ensure that quality doesn't slip. The company also will take more time between project approval and production of the first salable vehicle."

The slowdown-and-be-careful program is called Customer First, and has greenlighted requests from engineers for more time, money and personnel to develop vehicles. According to AN, chief engineers requested the following:
  • Better original computerized blueprints
  • More prototypes
  • More quality checkers
  • More time
  • Bigger budgets
There's no specific mention of the next-gen Prius in the article, but Rechtin writes that "complex vehicles with a new platform and powertrain can take 30 months or more for the same process [going from design freeze to Job 1, which usually takes 17-24 months]"

[Source: Mark Rechtin / Automotive News]

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