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Selling Power

Go fast or save gas, Toyota has a hot hybrid for you.

The CS&S concept, shown at the 2003 Frankfurt auto show is a high-performance hybrid roadster.
While the first generation Prius appealed to the environmentally-conscious, the new ad campaign, starting in October and peaking early next year, is targeted at introducing Prius to a much larger audience. Toyota says that they have already had more than one million hits on the Prius web site and 54,000 interested buyers have contacted Toyota. Plans are to sell 36,000 vehicles in the first calendar year in North America.

Not forgetting those early pioneers who helped get Prius to this point, Toyota sent out emails offering them first dibs on ordering the new car over the internet. Out of 20,000 responses they took 1,200 deposits.

The price for the 2004 Prius stays the same with an MSRP of $19,995, and Toyota assures us that the vehicle will be profitable over its four-and-ahalf to five-year cycle. With nine available options, a fully loaded Prius will go for just under $26,000 plus an estimated $500 deliver charge.

The ’04 car will be sold and serviced in every Toyota dealer in North America with the first 1,200 internet orders plus dealer demos being delivered in mid October. Hybrid Energy Drive will soon become a premium powertrain option across the whole Toyota/Lexus portfolio. Prius will be followed by the Lexus RX400H, an HEV version of the RX330 that will go on sale at the end of 2004. Next in line are hybrid versions of the Sienna minivan, Highlander SUV and possibly Camry.

Lindsay Brooke, senior manager, market assessment at CSM WorldWide, says that the next step towards mass-marketing hybrid technology will be to sell performance.

“I think what the industry needs and what you’ll probably see, is some sort of use of the hybrid system to achieve performance,” says Brooke. “They need something to incite the enthusiast.”

Toyota unveiled the CS&S (Compact Sports & Specialty) concept at this year’s Frankfurt Auto Show. The mid-engine 2+2 roadster is powered by an AWD hybrid system similar to the one that will be in the RX440H. The CS&S’ 1.5L gasoline engine will drive the rear wheels and electric motors will drive the front wheels.

The opposite will apply for RX440H. Dave Hermance, executive engineer environmental engineering, says that the Lexus will have a bigger motor than the 50kW unit powering Prius and placed as the premium powertrain option with the tag line, V-8-level performance, sixcylinder engine-four-cylinder fuel economy.

The Lexus will also use the same traction control system as Prius. The increased processor speeds of the power control system allow for accurate monitoring wheel speed giving the vehicle the best possible acceleration regardless of surface coefficient of friction.

“In the RX(440H) hybrid, this system will be called Torque on Demand,” says Hermance, “because the vehicle will break the tires on a dry surface without the system.” Now that says performance.

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Tue. May 28th, 2024

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