Can The Hybrid Save Toyota's Image?

Senior Writer
09.08.10 6 Comments

Earlier this year, Toyota found itself in the midst of public crosshairs as a series of recalls of the company’s most popular vehicles turned the world’s No. 1 automobile manufacturer into public enemy No. 1. Defects with brakes, steering, accelerators and even floor mats had dealerships across the U.S. reeling as they watched millions of vehicles – including the uber-popular Camry and Corolla – roll back onto the lot for repairs. Even worse, dealers were forced to sit on their hands as the company’s executives put a freeze on all sales to investigate the problems. And while most of the attention has been swept under the rug, Toyota is back in the news on the 10th anniversary of the Prius in America, as the company is hoping that its popular hybrids can mend the wounds.

While the Prius is celebrating its American birthday (it was introduced in Japan in 1997, but not until 2001 in the U.S.), France is popping out a little hybrid action of its own, thanks to Toyota. While most of the details are hush-hush, Toyota will be producing a hybrid Yaris, which is the manufacturer’s sub-compact vehicle. The standard Yaris is already produced in France, so it makes sense for Toyota to create the next generation there as well. The decision was announced just as Honda has been nearing the release of its own sub-compact hybrid for the Jazz model. Hybrids are surprisingly unpopular in European countries, so the automakers are dueling to make the first impact. Hopefully France surrenders to the idea.

Over in England, drivers are getting used to the idea of gas and energy conservation as well, as more businesses – specifically retail shopping venues – are offering parking spots equipped with hybrid plugging stations. A journalist at the Guardian recently borrowed a Prius, which are now in the third generation of development and manufacturing, and took it for a spin to see if it could handle his daily routine. It seems as if all reviews are positive, but the one major concern he had was for a lack of available plugging stations, which seems like a major nuisance but it could do wonders for your cardio workout. In related news, I am still available to test drive an iPad.

But there’s nowhere that the Prius is more beloved than back home in Japan, as the mid-size electric hybrid is king of the road, leading the nation in sales for the 15th-consecutive month. Japan’s government has created a series of tax breaks and economic benefits over the past few years to promote the purchase of hybrid vehicles. And with the money that Japanese buyers are saving, they can afford to install a popular new pedestrian system that lets drivers make spaceship noises from their cars to warn people of their proximity. Toyota may begin offering this new device in Japan soon with the U.S. right behind, but I prefer the method we already use – yelling, cursing and giving the finger.


  • French factory to develop first hybrid Yaris. Smug sold separately. (Reuters)
  • Reporter takes Prius for a test drive, Cosmo Kramer approves. (Guardian)
  • Japan’s torrid love affair with the Toyota Prius surges on. (Market Watch)
  • Toyota to use spaceship noises in the Prius to warn pedestrians in Japan. [With Video] (USA Today)



  • According to one Debbie Downer we’re just wasting our time with hybrids and “going green” because we’re all about to go extinct anyway, and there‘s nothing we can do to save our butts. Geez, thanks for the pick-me-up, Professor Awesome. (Market Watch)
  • Well if that is the case, then we might as well have some fun before we go. A candidate for governor in Nevada says the state can earn $1 billion by letting people buy a pass to speed on certain highways. For an extra fee you can also play bumper cars! (Breitbart)



  • As of last year, only 1 percent of automobiles on American roads were hybrids. Look at the bright side – zero percent were Decepticons. (Green Energy Efficient Homes)
  • Of approximately 200,000 hybrid vehicles sold in the U.S. last year, more than 40% were of the Prius variety. Sadly, my smooch-powered bicep machine had zero customers. (Cars Direct)
  • The Prius features the top gas mileage of any hybrid vehicle, managing 47.5 mpg. The Chevy Silverado is last at 16.4 mpg. U-S-A? (Pump N Go)


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