Toyota Prius family may shrink as low gas prices dim allure

The Toyota Prius family, which expanded to accommodate demand, may now shrink as fuel prices drop.

Toby Melville/Reuters/File
A Toyota logo is pictured on a Prius car at a Toyota dealership in west London (February 9, 2010).

During its tenure from 2010 through 2015, the outgoing third-generation Toyota Prius hybrid gradually spawned a "family" of models. The original Prius Liftback was joined a few years ago by the Prius V tall wagon, Prius C subcompact, and the Prius Plug-In Hybrid.

Now that the redesigned fourth-generation Prius has arrived, it will soon be time for Toyota to replace those "family members" with new models as well.
Or will it?

The Prius family may shrink as low gasoline prices dampen interest in the hybrids, according to a recent Automotive News report.

The Prius C and Prius V are sold under different names in other markets, but Toyota chose to use the Prius name here in an effort to make it the company's bestselling nameplate in the U.S.

Yet today the combined Prius family is outsold by many Toyota models, including the Camry mid-size sedan, RAV4 crossover, and Tacoma pickup truck.

Since additional Prius models were added in 2011 and 2012, two thirds of sales have still been of the original Prius Liftback. As that model aged, Prius sales declined.

Now that a new Prius is on sale, Toyota plans to "reinvest" in the Prius C and Prius V spinoffs, division general manager Bill Fay told Automotive News.
That doesn't mean the models will be redesigned, though. The future of the Prius V in particular depends on the success of the recently-launched RAV4 Hybrid.

With an EPA-rated 33 mpg combined (34 mpg city, 31 mpg highway), this model isn't nearly as efficient as the Prius V, at 42 mpg combined (44 mpg city, 40 mpg highway).

But it offers similar practicality, all-wheel drive, and feeds the public's seemingly insatiable demand for crossovers. In contrast, the future of the Prius Plug-In Hybrid is assured.

Toyota ended production last summer, saying there was sufficient supply of the plug-in Prius to last until near the launch of a new model this year. It could have 30 to 35 miles of electric range--a major increase from the outgoing model's 11 miles of range.

The new Prius Plug-In Hybrid will likely arrive by this summer, and it's possible we'll see it as early as the 2016 New York Auto Show next month.

This article first appeared at GreenCarReports.

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