Prius Steps Up/So Does The Competition

2010 Prius
Source: toyota.com
2010 Prius

I have long believed the Toyota Prius is a double edged sword for the auto industry.

On one hand, the fact it became the first hybrid to connect with the general public shows Americans are ready to embrace gas-electric vehicles. On the other hand, the dominance of the Prius among hybrids means many people saw it as the only gas-electric car worth considering. Some of that was brought on by competitors who rolled out hybrids that paled in comparison to the Prius.

That is about to change and Toyota is ready for the fight.

Today, Toyota takes the wraps off the new Prius and many in the auto industry will be watching to see if it can remain king of the hybrid hill.

With a refined interior, improved mileage (51 city/48 highway), and more features this re-designed Prius is a substantial improvement over the last generation of the car. It is evolving into a car people will drive for the mileage, while also enjoying the ride and interior. That was not the case with the current Prius which has a nice, but not exciting interior. As a neighbor of mine who owns a Prius likes to say in a very bland manner, "It gets me around town."

2010 Honda Insight
Source: automobiles.honda.com
2010 Honda Insight

Fortunately, Toyota is taking the Prius to the next level and for good reason.

The competition is also stepping up with better hybrids. Both the Honda Insightand the Ford Fusion Hybrid (base price $27,270) are strong options for people who want a gas-electric car.

2010 Ford Fusion Hybrid
Source: Ford Motor Company
2010 Ford Fusion Hybrid

The Insight, with an estimated price of $19,800 brings the price of the hybrid down and will start to remove one of the issues people have had with hybrids: they cost too much. Most '09 Prius models sell for roughly $24,000, but because of the competition and other factors the new Prius is expected to have an estimated starting price of $23,000. As the sticker prices of hybrids fall and the premiums charged for "going green" drop, more and more people will make the conversion to a gas-electric car.

More people will also buy hybrids because they will have more choices and better choices.

Two years ago, if you wanted to buy a hybrid, Prius was the clear cut leader. Yes, other auto makers sold hybrids, but they were either lacked "green cache" or worse, were boring outside and inside. Some time in the last two years, designers woke up and realized that they have to go further with their hybrids. They can't just make them be fuel efficient compact cars. The result is the Fusion Hybrid and Insight. And they are just the start. In the years to come there will be more hybrids that give the Prius a run for its money.

The hybrids are no longer just about the hype of getting great mileage. They've evolved into cars we want to drive

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