Iíve got a bone to pick with hybrid cars; specifically the Prius. I can understand if you want to save the environment and still commute around in a car. But what I donít get is the constant reference to the Prius as THE solution to save the world from smog filled Armageddon. The Prius is a luxury product, not our saviour.
There are quite a number of other hybrid vehicles out there that do the same thing and most importantly, achieve roughly the same mileage at a lower price. In our market, thereís the Honda Civic Hybrid, Lexusís GS, LS and RX models just to name a few. Thereís also the little Honda Insight thatís not available here. All of them either ease up fuel consumption of a given model or like go as far (like the Insight) to use as little fuel as possible to cover a given kilometer.
Yet none of them have gained as much reputation and thus as much sales as the Toyota Prius. Not even Toyotaís Lexus has had any success with selling hybrids. Before I get called out for comparing apples to oranges, letís take the Civic 1.3 Hybrid against the Prius 1.8. Thatís as close at it can get on a comparison scale for the local market. (The old prius with the 1.5 engine got replaced in the new iteration)
The Prius costs $113,988 and the Civic costs $81,800. Thatís a 28.3% difference in price with the Prius being more pricy. However, is there a 28.2% increase in performance? Letís see. The Prius gets a claimed 25.6km/l and the Civic a claimed 21.74km/l. Thatís only a 15% difference in fuel consumption figures.
The Prius puts out 90g of Co2 verus the Civicís 81.5g. Thatís 9% less, and in the Civicís favour. Of course you might argue that the Prius has a larger petrol engine and it does put out more combined power than the Civic. Yes that makes it torque-ier. But do you need that much power just to move off? Be honest, you want that immediate move off the stop line. The Civic pushes out 94bhp and the Prius pushes out 134bhp. 94bhp might be a paltry amount by todayís standard but it is still enough to get you around. It wonít be particularly quick and the carís modern (read: heavy) equipment will see that you wonít be going anywhere fast. But thatís exactly the point; youíre trying to save fuel, not speed. If you want speed, youíre in the wrong category.
And most people are in the wrong category. Yes, the Prius is cheaper per kilowatt hour than the Civic but come end of this year, the Nissan Leaf and the Chevrolet Volt will see production. And by the looks of it, the Leaf looks to undercut the Priusís production cost, by a significant amount. Google it.
But, will it or any other new EV/Hybrid vehicle see as much sales as the Prius? Would you stand proud and say, I drive a Leaf! Iím not so sure about that. You see, the Prius nameplate is more than just a name for a hybrid vehicle made by Toyota. It represents a lifestyle, a positioning statement, a proud declaration that I am self sacrificial, stylish and green. (In that order. Note that green is placed last) In this case, this is definitely an example of the messenger being more important than the message.
The Prius is now an icon but its message has been lost in translation.