Toyota secretly selling lithium-ion Vitz since 2003

The race for the first car company to use lithium-ion battery is over. Toyota won. Someone owes Don Esmond, the VP the bet Toyota would be first to market with lithium-ion, $100. Why? In Japan, Toyota has been selling Priuses Vitzes with lithium-ion batteries as part of an "intelligent package" since 2003. Why didn't they say anything in August when everyone questioned rumors of a delay? Actually, they did; It's buried in paragraph 12 of this Toyota blog post. Toyota, don't be so modest next time and why isn't this in the US?
The intelligent package costs 1.17 million yen ($10,200), about 100,000 yen ($870) more than standard models according to Toyota Executive Vice President Masatami Takimoto. They are available in very small numbers, about 10 cars a month and Toyota does not tell anyone but dealers do have the cars, buyers can ask for them and get them. What's the improvement in mileage? The lithium-ion Pirus Vitz get 25 kilometers a liter (60 miles a gallon), in Japanese testing, versus 22 kilometers a liter (53 miles a gallon) for the non-intelligent package, according to Toyota.

If I were GM, I would be very nervous right now because Toyota apparently has four years of real world data on hybrids Vitzes using lithium-ion batteries. If I were a consumer, I might be interested. Would you pay $10,000 $870 for 7 more miles per gallon?

Update: The cars with lithium-ion batteries is the Vitz not the Prius. Vitz is technically not a hybrid because the battery is never used to drive the car.

[Source: Associated Press and tipster Peter]

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