Toyota Prius Could Go Full Line

by : Tom Bailey

Toyota Motor Corp., the world's top seller of gasoline-electric autos and the second top automaker worldwide, may turn its mighty Prius into a full line of vehicles. This move is intended to triple its hybrid sales in the United States.

US will account for more than half a million hybrid cars and light trucks. According to Jim Lentz, executive vice president of Toyota U.S. sales unit, "The automaker plans to sell worldwide each year by early next decade. Prius-based models might include a wagon and a smaller car."

"For us to do 600,000, there will probably have to be Prius and derivatives of Prius that are selling in the neighborhood of 300,000 to 400,000. We don't have any plans to do that right now, but that's the direction that nameplate can go, because it is that strong," Lentz said at the Specialty Equipment Market Association trade show in Las Vegas.

So far, among auto giants, Toyota is making the most aggressive promotion of gasoline-electric vehicles as the best obtainable option to control fuel consumption and exhaust emissions. In 2005, the automaker sold 235,000 hybrids globally. The number is four times more than the sales of Honda Motor Co. The latter is the second ranking automaker in said segment.

One of Toyota's prides in terms of hybrid technology is Prius. The vehicle is the world's first hybrid that is commercially mass-produced. It went on sale internationally in 1997. In the US, Prius is linked with environmentalist and liberal politics. It is famed by celebrities who want to pursue environmental cause.

The 2004 model of Prius is a redesigned version. Said car is based on Toyota's Hybrid Synergy Drive (HSD). Two years after, Prius is given minor cosmetic changes to boost safety and ergonomics. Finally, the 2007 version of the vehicle is given new features and enhanced to make it more sophisticated, high-performing and safe.

Moreover, the Touring edition of Prius is given bigger and sharper-pointed 7-spoke, 16-inch alloy wheels with plastic hub cab cover, elongated larger rear spoiler, firmer suspension, integrated foglights and advanced headlights for added protection and power.