Toyota has big plans for the new Prius family brand. We don't really give a rip what the plural of the name is, but we do like that the fuel-saving technology will be available in more and more vehicles on the Prius platform and Toyota thinks that there will be a lot of people who feel the same way. Bob Carter, Toyota's U.S. sales chief, told journalists recently that the Prius Family will become, "the number one nameplate in the industry" by 2020. The company might also build these hybrids in the U.S. (finally).
Speaking at the Detroit Auto Show, Carter said that the family expansion is going in all directions. Toyota is "keeping an eye" on bringing the Prius plug-in technology to other members of the Prius family, for example, while the new Prius V and Prius C make the brand's vehicles bigger and smaller, respectively. Whether these cars get a plug will be dependent on the success of the Prius Plug-in. "We've got to understand where the volumes are once we introduce this vehicle to the market before we take that next step," Carter said.
Carter said Toyota expects sales of 12,000-20,000 units of the Prius Plug-in for the first 12 months. The vehicle will be introduced in the 14 coastal states that follow California's zero-emission laws and should be a decent seller. Using a smaller, lighter, cheaper battery means Toyota, "can bring in a plug-in technology in the Prius at a much more affordable price for consumers and really help get it into the mainstream. And when the battery runs out, you've got a 50 mpg Prius."
Why does this all make sense for Toyota now? Carter said:
We should find out when the Prius V arrives in the middle of this year and the Prius Plug-In and Prius C hit the marketplace in the first half of 2012. (This post continues after the jump.)We don't believe gasoline, the national average, will fall below $3 a gallon all year. The national average will approach something like $3.50, which means on the West Coast, where state taxes are higher, gasoline is approaching $4. That's the tipping point, where buyer behavior and the vehicles that they purchase change dramatically. So, I'm very confident in our economic forecast that we're headed in the right direction.
Carter said there Toyota is not ready to announce a sales estimate for the V, but both volume and pricing will be announced at the same time. Who will be the targets of that pricing level? Carter said that the Prius V was built for the Prius rejectors, those who are looking for a high-mpg option in a larger interior volume. The number of people who will defect from a standard Prius to the V will be "minimal," he said. So, if people like a bigger Prius, will they like one that's bigger than the V even more? Is this as big as the Prius will get? Carter said:
What about even more expansion to the Prius family? "Perhaps, that's what families do," Carter said. Specifically, here's what Carter said about a possible Prius Pickup:Time will tell. We built this at customer's request. Our next emphasis then, in addition to the plug-in, is going to go to a smaller, more compact, higher-mpg, much more affordable Prius.
By 2020, Toyota hopes to offer a hybrid version in every "line we sell," Carter said.We continue to study that. The pick-up market has been very volitaile over the last couple of years, so we're trying to understand what kind of pick-up we are going to want in the future. Right now, with the Tacoma and the compact pick-up market, we have nearly a 45 percent market share. The consumer says, for the truck market, they still want that rugged, body-on-frame, but we're open. We're still evaluating it. It's still too early to tell [if it'll be part of the Prius family]. Prius means high mpg, low environmental impact. It's not off the table, but nothing has been decided yet.