Thursday, August 27, 2015

The New (Ugly) Face of the Hybrid Car Market



Alexander Carabitses

Before I begin, I want to quickly point out that I respect Toyota for launching the Prius back in 1999. It was admittedly a big risk at the time, but there was a handsome reward in the end as the Prius is the best selling hybrid car in the country.

However, it is such a damn shame that Toyota plans to soil the reputation of the Prius, because what the brand plans to unveil on September 8th of this year is going to be as risky as the first-gen Prius was in '99.  The 2017 Prius will be the 4th generation of this venerable hybrid, and it is sure to send shockwaves through the industry.  Although there may be some battery improvements, as well as an increase in fuel economy, it is quite safe to say that Toyota messed up on everything else, judging by the leaked photos I have seen.

How can the 4th generation car be any worse than the three generations that came before it?  Exterior design that looks akin to botched up plastic surgery on the ugliest celebrity in existence.  I know this may not sound like anything new, given that only the first-gen model does not look like an armadillo on wheels, but once you see the pictures you will be awestruck.
(Image credited to carscoops.com)



As you can see, Toyota clearly didn't have a clue when designing this car.  Think about it, how do you infuse bold aggressive design onto an armadillo shaped car, while also making it still look eco-friendly at the same time?  It is challenging, for sure.  Yeah, there might be a chance that Toyota engineers came up with the shape and the designers had to paste on a front and rear fascia, but this is still really depressing.  Toyota has introduced some models that are impressive in the design department, as of late.  The new Avalon, Highlander, and yes, even the new for 2015 Camry all look good and are major improvements from their predecessors.  And I want also add that Toyota may have hit the nail on the head, as the Prius Plug-In, pictured below, has exactly the type of bold design the baseline Prius needs.

Here's the deal folks, say what you want about Toyota buyers, but they aren't stupid.  Sure, some are uneducated about cars, but most of them truly want safe reliable transportation to get from Point A to Point B; these people have families and they certainly want to feel safe in a reliable piece of equipment.  Toyota buyers like attractive looking vehicles, they don't like plain vanilla.  In the past, people bought Toyotas for their safely and readability, compromising design and thinking that Toyota's old form language was the best they were going to get.  Then Akio Toyoda came along and allowed the designers to design cars freely.  The new products were introduced and Toyota buyers realized they could have it all (with the exception of fun-to-drive cars which I'm sure we will see in the future).

But now there's this, this God-awful looking thing that is the end all be all for the Hybrid car market.  Toyota buyers may choose to go plug-in, or they may go to Hyundai's upcoming Prius fighter.  Toyota buyers know what the brand is capable of now, and they certainly don't want an ugly car.  One would think that Toyota, with all of its resources would be capable of so much more, but I guess that is not the case.

So Toyota may or may not think that its buyers don't have taste, which is complete bullshit, but my problem with this new car extends beyond this.  The Prius has an image as the villain of any car enthusiast, but now we have reached a whole other level with this 4th-gen model.   Sure driving dynamics will have surly been improved, and the interior will be new, but this is still not enough to make up for the exterior.  This new exterior design could in fact be the soul reason for enthusiasts to hate this car now.

However, the biggest problem with the new Prius is that it could hurt the Hybrid cars' image.  You see, the Prius is the face of the hybrid car market, as it is the best selling hybrid and the first hybrid car at that.  So when the new Prius emerges and the general public sees it, they will be startled.  After all, this is the face of the hybrid car market, and it looks like this? Yikes!  At this point, the face of the entire green car segment could still be the Prius, even though the Tesla Model S has earned itself quite a good reputation, but this car could also be the epitome of why people may lean away from green cars, because they look clownish and tasteless, and they don't want to be seen as people without taste.  Everyone has taste, even the most modest of people, and with a lineup of cars that is changing for the better, Toyota's decision to launch a car like this is a slap in the face to the mainstream car buyer, and a slap in the face to the hybrid car segment that is currently seeing a sales decline, while plug-in and EV sales continue to grow.

The overall green car segment is represented by two cars, the Tesla Model S and the Toyota Prius, and given that the Prius is more affordable, guess which one represents the eco friendly mainstream car buyer, and guess which one represents the eco friendly affluent car buyer?

 The point is, the Prius may hurt the image of Hybrid cars in the US market, at a time when the segment could really use some growth.  Remember, Toyota buyers bought the other three generations of Prius for their reliability, safety, and good gas mileage; design was never part of the equation for any Toyota, but now it is, and this looks worse than anything Toyota has produced in a long time (even the Mirai).

Despite all that I have said, I seriously wish Toyota the best on their future endeavors with this new Prius, and as much as I hate to say this, because I am an enthusiast after all, I really hope that they sell a lot of these for the sake of the environment and nothing more.

Thanks for reading and have a good weekend.


(Image credited to carscoops.com)



(Image credited to carscoops.com)



(The Prius Hybrid at the top and the Prius Plug-in at the bottom.  While the hybrid has questionable looks, the Plug-in has a design that is well thought out and executed, at least compared to what's pictured above it.  Image credited to carscoops.com)




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