Toyota Denies Reports That All Priuses Will Be Plug-in
The Japanese business journal Nikkei reported Monday that Toyota is planning to make plug-in capability a standard feature on all Prius hybrids beginning in 2014.
PluginCars.com editor Brad Berman reached out directly to Jana Hartline, environmental communications manager at Toyota. "The report is not accurate," Hartline said. "We spoke to our offices in Japan, and the story is not true. There is no formal plan to make all Priuses plug-in by 2014."
Toyota is traditionally tight-lipped about its future product plans. So Brad inquired further about the "no formal plan" reference. He asked, "There's no formal plan, but is it a possibility?" Hartline emphatically replied, "No." She added that it didn't make sense considering the company's recent marketing efforts to launch an entire family of Priuses with a range of sizes, costs and options.
Toyota has been one of the auto industry's most reluctant companies to offer plug-in vehicles, and has put a priority on pushing non-plug hybrids into the mainstream, while only taking modest steps to introduce its first electric and plug-in electric vehicles. Going all plug-in with the Prius would represent a major shift in strategy.
The Toyota Prius Plug-in Hybrid, scheduled to launch in 2012, provides about 14 miles of all-electric driving. Unlike the Chevy Volt, the Prius-with-plug can use the gasoline engine at any point that extra power is needed. This approach is based on Toyota's belief that plug-in hybrids with relatively smaller batteries will provide more value to customers.
The Nikkei article also reported that Toyota will abandon its nickle-metal hydride technology in favor of lithium-ion battery backs on all of its hybrids beginning the same year, and will sell the base plug-in Prius at a similar price point to the current non-plug-in model, “at around 2.05 million yen” (or $25,400).
We'll keep our eye on the story as more information—or possibly a retraction—comes in, but for now it looks like Nikkei might have gotten this one wrong.
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