Perhaps the most divisive car made today, the Toyota Prius has gone ahead and set a new milestone, racking up 3 million sales worldwide. As the second mass-produced hybrid in the U.S. when it launched for the 1999 model year (following its 1997 introduction in Japan), the Toyota Prius looked a little dopey, like the similar vintage Toyota Echo sedan.
But through refinement and a shift in paradigms for what an efficient car could be, coupled with 1,261 patents in the meantime, the Toyota Prius has become the best-selling hybrid in the world and a technological leader. Not only that, but the Prius is the best-selling car in Japan as well as California. The current Toyota Prius, which has been on sale since 2009, achieves an EPA-rated 51 mpg city/49 mpg highway, a 22-percent improvement over the previous-generation car. We’re expecting similar improvements when the 2015 Toyota Prius comes out, further heightening its massive lead in the segment.
Toyota is dumping hundreds of millions of dollars into its Toyota City research facilities in preparation for the next-generation Toyota Prius as well as other alternative-fuel technologies.
Whether or not you like the Toyota Prius, it’s impossible to ignore its efficiency using aerodynamics and electric motor technology. While the current car is a bit compromised, it is singly better and doing what it does on the fuel economy front for a five-passenger car than any other vehicle in the U.S. by a wide margin. We hope Toyota improves its interior quality and refinement in the next generation, which is closer than it seems; we’ve already seen prototypes of it testing on Southern California roads.