Plug-In Prius Gets Testy in Early 2009

September 1, 2008
A Toyota dealer that got a little anxious over the purported plug-in Prius hybrid has been rebuked--and customers are getting their deposits back.

In a gentle but public slap on the wrist to Silicon Valley-adjacent Magnussen Toyota in Palo Alto, Calif., Toyota announced that it's "very proud that Magnussen’s Toyota intends to return the deposits it has collected from customers hoping to be the first to buy a plug-in Prius," explaining that "one of our dealers created some confusion recently by taking deposits on future Prius plug-in hybrids" despite the fact that the automaker has not announced a timetable for retail sales of such a vehicle.

Toyota's PR folks issued a carefully-worded statement on their blog that danced a fine line between maintaining the public's rabid enthusiasm for its hybrid vehicles and emphatically stating that plug-in hybrids will not be released until they are tried and tested. Toyota's corporate blog says "we have vowed as a company to not release new systems until they are reliable and ready for everyday use. One of the best ways to help ensure that is through rigorous testing in fleets that do a tremendous amount of driving in all types of weather and road conditions."

Toyota did mention that its Global President, Katsuaki Watanabe, announced that test Prius plug-in hybrids will be delivered to commercial fleet customers not in 2010, as originally planned, but in early 2009. These fleets will be in the U.S. as well as in other parts of the world. Presumably, the plug-in test vehicles will bow sometime after the new 2010 Prius shows up at the Detroit auto show in January.

Meanwhile, GM battery engineers are working to deliver on the promise of the 2010 Chevrolet Volt, which also may sport a plug-in version at some point in its life. We're expecting Volt news within the next week or so; keep an eye on these pages for more.--Colin Mathews

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