Toyota still hopes to beat 2010 sales for its hybrid Prius

Article by Christian Andrei, on July 7, 2011

Toyota Motor Corp. is positive that its sales for the hybrid Prius vehicles this year will still be higher than what it achieved in 2010 despite the fact that there is just a one-day inventory of the car model on dealers' lots after the March disaster in Japan. The company is racing to replenish supply after the inventory shortage led to a drop of 61 percent in the deliveries for Prius in the United States for the month of June.

This was the lowest delivery level ever since September 2004. Approximately half of the Prius models are sold in the U.S., where it accounts for at least 60 percent of hybrid vehicles sold since 1999, according to data provided by automakers.

Prius is the company’s No. 3 bestselling vehicle next to Camry and Corolla. However, it is also the fastest-growing Toyota nameplate for this year despite the inventory shortage due to the March disaster in Japan. The demand for efficient vehicles has increased this 2011 as fuel prices become high.

In June, the Chevrolet Cruze of General Motors Co. was the bestselling vehicle in the U.S. On the other hand, deliveries of Ford Motor Co.'s Focus increased by 41 percent. Before the March earthquake, Toyota was targeting that its sales of Prius in 2011 would exceed the vehicle’s 2007 peak of 181,221 units.

Although that level may be out of reach for now, the company can still outperform its 2010's deliveries of 140,928 units, according to Donald Esmond, who is Toyota's senior vice president for U.S. sales.

Even as Toyota continues to introduce its full hybrid technology to new segments on the market like with the Auris Hybrid and the Yaris Hybrid, its most recognizable product remains to be the Prius especially as it comes equipped with the full hybrid powertrain design of the brand.

The newest version of the Prius has, among others, an improved design for the exterior. The front part for instance has a more dynamic treatment. The design of the Under Priority front bumper has been enhanced so that it not only highlights the enlarged lower grille also keeps it in line with the new face of the brand’s next generation. On the bumper, its daytime running lights have been integrated to it with the clear lens headlamps sporting new design with an improved configuration for the LED lamp. In addition to a new design, the latest Prius also offers better sensorial quality for the interior and improved instrumentation.

There is even a wide range of advanced navigation systems and multimedia that are affordable like the Toyota Touch, Toyota Touch Pro, and the Toyota Touch & Go Plus. Without a doubt, the Prius continues to lead the pack when it comes to innovations in technology. Each time Toyota launches a new Prius, it always manages to introduce to its segment a whole new slew of technological features that are ahead of its time. Take for example the third-generation Prius that was unveiled back in 2009. It had the Head-up Display where important information, like the speed of the vehicle, is shown on the windscreen’s base. It even displays the Eco Drive Monitor and the present status of the Active Cruise Control system and the Pre-Crash Safety system. These systems though, are offered as options. This version of the Prius also launched what would be a remote controlled air conditioning combined with a solar ventilation system, a first in the world.

Thus while the Prius is parked, the solar ventilation system ensures that the temperature of the air in the interior is prevented from rising. This system works in conjunction with the air conditioning which can be triggered remotely. With the help of the hybrid battery, given its large capacity, it is possible to make sure that the interior is cooled up to three minutes just before being occupied. These various technological features make up one of the many reasons why in just 2 years after it was first launched, almost 100,000 units of this third-generation model have been sold in Europe alone. Even now, it continues to attract customers, especially those who want to purchase a Toyota for the first time.

In fact, figures show that during the first six months of 2011, 50% of Prius sales in Europe were to customers who shifted to Toyota from another brand. For the newest version of the Prius, one technological feature is the Intelligent Parking Assist. What this does is to manoeuver the Prius automatically to a selected parking spot. Making use of a rear view camera and ultrasonic sensors, the system is able to determine the necessary steering movements in order to move in reverse to the spot.

All the driver needs to do is control the speed. Another feature is the Pre-Crash Safety system. To run this system, it utilizes the sensors that are placed below the front grille and combined it with the Adaptive Cruise Control. With this, it is able to calculate the possibility of a collision and if it does, it activates the different intelligent safety features. For example it immediately pre-tensions the seatbelts and even triggers the Brake Assist alarm.

Once the system determines that there is a high chance of a collision occurring, it activates the automatic braking. As a result, it lowers the possible impact, and even the damage, that will occur. There is also the Touch Tracer display switch which has been mounted on the steering wheel. This enables the driver to control a number of features like the ECO Drive Monitor, the air conditioning, and even the audio system. All these are possible without removing one’s hands from the steering wheel or even looking down. This newest generation of the Prius is slated to be unveiled during the 2011 Frankfurt Motor Show.

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