Toyota mulls possible shape redesign for next-generation Prius

Article by Anita Panait, on November 6, 2012

Toyota Motor Corp. is considering whether to retain the aerodynamic wedge-shape of the Prius as it designs the next-generation of the hybrid line. According Chris Hostetter, Toyota's U.S. group vice president for strategic planning, many people have been hinting that they are ready for a new Prius look.

Hostetter, who is collaborating with Toyota engineers on the redesign of the Prius, remarked that maybe the architecture for the vehicle has been a bit similar for the last two generations.

Hostetter told Bloomberg in a phone interview that while Toyota has yet to select a look from "a menu to choose from" for the next Prius, one of the options they are exploring is to evolve it. Automotive News reported in July that the redesigned Prius is due to be rolled out in the spring of 2014.

Toyota’s drive to widen Prius's appeal comes as the hybrid line cash in on record deliveries, topping sales rankings in markets like Japan and California. A possible redesign of the Prius is being goaded by stricter fuel-economy rules in US as well as tougher hybrid competition from Ford Motor Co. and Honda Motor Co.

According to figures released by Toyota, the carmaker posted a 60-percent jump in global sales of the Prius – including main hatchback, V wagon, plug-in model and subcompact Prius C – in the first nine months of 2012 to 691,281 units.

The carmaker was able to sell 509,399 units in 2010, when it offered only the hatchback variant. According to John Wolkonowicz, an independent analyst who specializes in automotive history, the shape of the Prius was perfect for the product as it was distinctive. Wolkonowicz, however, noted that the current shape also appealed to only a certain type of buyer, so it is now time for Toyota to sell the Prius to a broader market.

Prius may have been formed by a wind tunnel, but its design is as emotional as it is intellectual. The designers infused the new model with even more excitement. Drawing inspiration from the idea of a runner at a start, the athletic design communicates a sense of moving forward.

The triangle silhouette defined Prius’s second and third generations, and it is now being reimagined. Its profile is lengthier and smoother with the entire outline suggesting athleticism. The hood has been lowered, and the front emblem is at the same level as the Scion FR-S.

The distinct roof top is 6.7 inches (170mm) more forward, further reducing drag while keeping plenty of rear headroom. Definitive character lines emerge from the front and run across the side. One line appears just over the sill and sweeps up to the rear, and the upper fold transforms into the rear spoiler. The rocker panel has a distinct upward-facing light-catching surface that starts at the vehicle’s lowest point to emphasise its stance stability.

New Bi-LED headlights are standard and dominate the Prius's front, giving it a memorable face. Headlights can be automatically levelled to keep beams fixed to the road and to avoid blinding oncoming drivers.

Singular and attractive rear combo lamps reflect the distinct Prius lines from the rear to the side trailing edges and leave the most evocative night signatures. The seven available exterior colours include a new Toyota offering, Hypersonic Red. A new treatment process creates an intense and luminous lustre that highlight the external shapes. This could make red the new green!

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