With tsunamis and earthquakes crippling cities and disrupting power in Japan, the Japanese are glad to have something to celebrate. Toyota’s new “Prius-a” or “Prius Alpha” series contains two models called “Prius V” and “Prius+.” The release event took place in a spacious Tokyo garden and celebrated the release of the models despite production delays. Executive Satoru Mouri said despite earthquake damage to key parts suppliers, their current production capacity of their new lithium ion batteries has reached one thousand units per month.
The new batteries are smaller than the nickel-metal hydride batteries and so allow for more cabin space for added passengers and added comfort. The new batteries are featured in their Prius+ model, which has space for seven passengers in its three rows of seats. The current third-generation Prius available in the U.S. boasts 35.5-38 km/L in Japan and 48-51mpg in the U.S. The reports on the Prius V tout 73mpg in Japan.
The Prius V is set to sell for the equivalent of $29,000 in Japan and the Prius + for $37,000. At a time when people are worried about runaway nuclear plants, power shortages, automotive recalls, economic decline, and job stability, there might be concern about trying to release a new line of expensive hybrid cars. The monthly order target was 3,000, but in the first month received 18,000 pre-orders for the Prius V and another 7,000 orders for the Prius +. Supply chain problems, possible shut down of the nuclear plant that supports Toyota’s headquarters, and reliability concerns in other models are bad problems.
Now Toyota has a good problem. It has received over eight times more orders than it anticipated in its first month of offering it’s larger hybrids. True, production will be hampered by plant difficulties surrounding the disaster, but Toyota has promised to do its best to ramp up production. Their current production of the Nickel-metal hydride (NiMH) batteries for the Prius V is double that of the Prius + and Toyota has no plans on slowing down any time soon. Toyota aims each month to sell 2,000 of the Prius-a in Europe and another 2,000 in the United States.
When the earlier models of the Prius released, buyers endured long waits for their precious purchases. In 2005 and 2006 buyers commonly waited on lists for 13 weeks in some areas of the country to be able to close the garage door with their coveted Prius safely inside. This time, however, Toyota is warning that orders for some may not be filled until next April.
With gas prices in the U.S. orbiting around $3.50 or more per gallon, the green movement rolling through our national consciousness, and the ever-improving efficiency of hybrid cars, there’s no doubt that American consumers will wait. The hybrid car market is opening up to more than just aficionados of Birkenstocks and granola. Today the driver of a hybrid car is forward thinking, money wise, and conscientious. Tomorrow, who knows? The drivers of hybrid cars might be normal people, and those gas-guzzlers might be the ones everyone thinks are strange.
Photo Source: Toyota