Viva amphibia! Can the seminal hybrid survive?

2016 Prius TeslaMondo

These guys appear to be excited. How ’bout you?

In some ways, the Prius is the Tesla Model III of a decade ago. During its heyday, from 2004 to 2009, the Prius established a base camp in super-hostile territory — mid-size family vehicles — and did ultimately conquer SOME enemy turf. Unlike Tesla, Toyota didn’t offer stirring performance, but still engineered its way into the automotive hall of fame by offering a compelling-enough alternative to the norm. The Prius made green vogue. It even grew into a family:

The regular Prius
The Prius C (for “city”)
The Prius V (for “versatile”)
The Prius Plug-In (for shits and giggles)

But the blush is fading from the rose. Even the Prius name is souring in social media, at least among a vocal minority of youth — probably the ones getting Prius hand-me-downs from their parents. Will incremental boosts in style (debatable), fuel economy, electric range and road manners in the 2016 Prius prove enough to keep the Prius family alive despite erosion of its fuel savings ROI? Or will the likes of the Tesla Model III, which could break into the high $20k range after tax incentives and prove immune from ROI concerns, render the Prius an amphibian oddity in the evolution of the automobile? A mere mudskipper?

Prius sales decline TeslaMondoAre pure EVs, led by Tesla, finally defeating range anxiety and approaching the alt-vehicle tipping point last breached by the Prius? The bigger question: Will pure EVs inflict more harm on gas cars than hybrids did? Yes, hybrids made money for Toyota and boosted the brand overall, but as a whole, hybrids didn’t change the world. Gas cars die hard.

Hybrids might die easier. Old-fashioned gassy, oily folks who’ve never considered a Prius may leapfrog that ol’ amphibian and land on the next lily pad, if the lure is great enough. And Prius fans might be ready to cut the cord to the gas world once and for all. In both cases, the primary lure wouldn’t be gas savings, or even greenness. Nope. The lure will be pure excitement — the old school motivator that Tesla has in abundance and Toyota is hurriedly trying to generate, apparently by aping the mighty . . . Mirai.

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4 thoughts on “Viva amphibia! Can the seminal hybrid survive?

  1. Timmy says:

    I hope to see it die a quick death, but fear that it will be prolonged. Toyota really pee-usses me off!

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  2. The user guide for the new Prius plug-in (which claims all of 11 miles electric range) notes that you cannot even rely on that. Among the FAQs there’s something like “Do I have to put gas in the tank?” Toyota’s answer, approximately: “Yes, you must always have fuel in the vehicle.”

    After all these years, eleven lousy miles of electric range, which still requires petroleum fuel for support. It’s as if Toyota WANTS to fail.

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  3. purrpullberra says:

    I am far from a Toyota fan but there are a couple good things to say about the new Prius. But first my line: “the new Prius is as edgy as a conga line of nude 80 somethings”. Thank you, thank you.
    Anyway, there are folks who just don’t have a place to plug in reliably enough to go all-electric. I’m glad there are cars like the Prius for people who don’t care about driving dynamics or looks or anything enthusiasts get enthused about with great cars. There are plenty of people who can make the best use of what the Prius offers.
    What I dislike so much is that Toyota has been so conservative about pushing their tech to be something greater than this, going beyond minor, incremental progress. Consequently the Prius has gone from being a revelation (if not a revolution) to being boring and passé in the minds people who would otherwise have some good things to say about it.
    Of course Toyota’s abominable behavior in trashing EV’s over the past few years, publicly disrespecting Tesla as a company and their various transgressions regarding their push for H2 FCV’s has earned them the ire of anyone with a brain who pays attention to the industry.
    So the company has been indefensible in many ways lately but this car is actually on the positive side of the scale we can use to judge Toyota IMHO.
    And I am happy that people can buy a car like this if they can’t manage to charge an EV easily enough but pity them for its looks. It’s efficient but now it is uglier than almost every other car on the market in the west. What a middle finger to their customers….SMH

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