We first heard about Toyota using its Prius nameplate for a family of hybrid vehicles as far back as March, but since then there has been little indication that the carmaker was still planning to go ahead with the idea. The first hint came from Toyota R&D chief Kazuo Okamoto, who said the idea of a Prius brand was “reasonable”.
The company’s North American sales chief Jim Lentz has now revealed that Toyota is also considering setting up dedicated areas in its dealerships solely to sell Prius-branded models. "There is a definite desire for us to do that," Lentz revealed at a press conference in Detroit today.
The Toyota exec also confirmed that that there will be more dedicated hybrid models in the near future. "You will see us expand hybrid offerings," he told Reuters.
In the pipeline is the third-generation Prius, due in showrooms next April, as well as a dedicated hybrid model for Lexus. Both cars are expected to be presented for the first time at next year’s Detroit Auto Show. After that Toyota is also planning to launch its first plug-in hybrid model, which the carmaker has confirmed will go on sale sometime in 2010 alongside the Chevrolet Volt.
Unlike many of its rivals, Toyota has had widespread success with its Prius hybrid. Most car buyers immediately recognize the car as a hybrid vehicle and consider it one of the most fuel-efficient models on sale today despite numerous other vehicles – especially diesels – posting better mileage figures. The Prius also had the unique position of being one of the only dedicated hybrid models on the market for the good part of the last decade.
Toyota would be smart to capitalise on the success of the Prius name, especially considering that most other carmakers are planning to launch a new-generation of advanced hybrid models.