Toyota to begin production of the next-generation Prius in the U.S. by 2015

Article by Christian A., on May 2, 2012

Toyota Motor Corp. has set a goal that by 2015, production of the next-generation Prius will begin in the U.S. To achieve this, Toyota would have to source hybrid drivetrain components in North America. Toyota has already started to scout suppliers that can deliver inverters, electric motors and batteries from the U.S. to anticipate this move, according to Koei Saga, Toyota’s senior managing officer who oversees drivetrain r&d.

Toyota expects Prius sales to reach 200,000 units annually in North America by 2015 or even earlier. Its volume is presently on track to surpass this figure for this year. Toyota didn’t say where the next-generation Prius would be produced.

However, it requires a North American production base to offset foreign exchange losses from importing expensive gasoline-electric hybrid vehicles like the Prius from Japan. Local output is justified with a volume of 200,000 units.

This hybrid production milestone will coincide with the introduction of the fourth-generation Prius, the top-selling hybrid in the world.

When interviewed at the Beijing auto show, Saga said that the company hopes that by 2015, it would already be introducing the next-generation Prius so it’s now focused on starting the local output of hybrid units by then.

Saga said that it’s likely that Toyota will produce the next-generation Prius in North America since it will have sufficient volume. In the first quarter of the year, Toyota sold 60,859 units of Prius family vehicles in the U.S., with variants like the Prius V wagon, Prius C compact and plug-in Prius.

Its total grew by 42% from just 42,779 units the past year. Saga said that it’s quite challenging to find local suppliers. Majority of U.S. carmakers get their hybrid drivetrain components from either Japan or South Korea.

Almost twenty years ago, the idea of “disrupting” the status quo in the auto industry was something that was unheard of. However, Toyota did just that when it introduced the Prius, the first gas/electric hybrid vehicle to be mass produced. Since then, at least 3.5 million units have been sold around the world and have resulted in the auto industry slowly moving towards hybridization.

As if that was not enough, Toyota is once again doing it with the 2016 Prius liftback. Prius has long been considered as the global green icon and with this new fourth-generation version, it is expected to take the hybrid concept further than it has ever been. It will have an eye-catching design, better ride comfort, and of course, fuel economy ratings that are clearly higher.

Longtime customers of the Prius will get to experience new levels when it comes to refinement and driving pleasure. New customers meanwhile will likely be surprised at what it can offer. When it comes to the design, the words to describe the new Prius include dramatic, emotional, or even modern.

It still has that familiar form but when compared to the previous model, the dimensions are larger as it is longer, wider, and lower. This allows it to offer additional space for the interior as well as give it a more planted stance and thus enhance handling agility.

In shaping the Prius, the objective was to make it more aerodynamic so that compared to the previous model it would have higher fuel economy ratings. Speaking of the interior, it has a more premium feel with advanced technology equipped. These are then balanced with features that are pleasing to look at, fun, and more importantly, functional.

For example, the improved visibility and the ease in using the controls combined with the form-hugging seats and the wrap-around design of its dashboard resulted in making this new model a car that is truly engaging. With the interior being quieter versus the prior generation, occupants will an even better chance to enjoy the connectivity offered and the Toyota Entune multimedia.

Similar to the previous model, the 2016 Prius will use regular-grade gasoline. Even then, when it comes to fuel economy ratings, Toyota projects the 2016 Prius will be rated 54 mpg for city, 50 mpg for highway, and 62 mpg combined. These figures would clearly make the 2016 Prius the best mass-produced passenger hybrid vehicle. For the Eco grade version, Toyota sees ratings to be 58 mpg city, 53 mpg highway, and 56 mpg combined. This is due to having a lighter weight with aerodynamics being optimized even more.

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