2010 Toyota Prius at 2009 Detroit auto showEnlarge Photo
Toyota Motor Sales USA made an intriguing announcement this week: the automaker told U.S. dealers that Toyota is extending the range of its Prius lineup in American showrooms. Based on statements from dealers with first-hand knowledge of the announcement, it appears that Toyota's intent is simply to leverage the immense popularity of the Prius brand, which has become synonymous with the term "hybrid". Said Dealer Earl Stewart, "The Highlander hybrid and Camry hybrid do OK, but calling it 'Synergy Drive' never resonated with consumers".
Exactly how this will play out on Toyota lots remains unsure, and to the best of our knowledge, the company has released no additional details. However, Stewart did go on to say that "Prius won't be a separate sub-brand like Scion", so assuming his reportage is accurate, we're likely looking at a range of coupes, sedans, wagons, SUVs, etc. -- all emblazoned with the Prius name. (Personally, we'd love to see a Prius roadster. Not that anyone asked.)
Ultimately, this could be a brilliant strategy for Toyota, which is generally perceived by the American public as a leader in smart, green, automotive technology. And at a time when "green" remains a remarkably powerful buzzword in the popular vernacular, building on the already-strong Prius brand is a no-brainer. If Toyota plays its cards right, "Prius" could become one of those terms that's synonymous for its entire product segment -- much like "Xerox" stands in for "copy machine", "Rollerblade" stands in for "in-line skate", and "Dumpster" stands in for, well, "dumpster".
Our only question: what took Toyota so long to reach this decision?
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