Toyota brings global bestseller Prius | autos | Hindustan Times
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Toyota brings global bestseller Prius

Just two days after showcasing its smallest car ever exclusively for India, the world's largest car-maker, Toyota, launched its ace of the pack — the hybrid Prius. Sumant Banerji reports.

autos Updated: Jan 07, 2010 21:05 IST
Sumant Banerji

Just two days after showcasing its smallest car ever exclusively for India, the world's largest car-maker, Toyota, launched its ace of the pack — the hybrid Prius, on Wednesday.

With this, Toyota is attempting something that country cousin Honda had failed to achieve in 2008 with its Civic hybrid — create a market for hybrids in India.

The Prius is priced at
Rs 26.55-27.86 lakh, a good 30 per cent more than the Civic hybrid, but the success chances for a car that has sold over 1.5 million units worldwide are much more.

"Worldover, we have sold over 2 million hybrid cars till date and Prius makes up for over 1.5 million of them," said Sandeep Singh, deputy managing director, Toyota Kirloskar Motor. "This year we plan to sell 6 lakh units of the car globally. In India the bookings begin today (Thursday) and we will sell 200 cars between March and December."

The technology in the Prius is that of a traditional hybrid car — an electric motor (60 kW in this case) working in tandem with a gasoline emgine (1.8 litre) enabling the car to run longer on a litre of fuel than an ordinary petrol car. The Prius like the Civic promises double fuel efficiency of 24 km per litre.

At 89 gm/km of CO2 emissions, it is also one of the cleanest cars in the world.

The high price is the car's biggest drawback and is a result largely of high import duty of over 104 per cent that more than doubles the price. But Toyota says the Prius is only manufactured in Japan and has no plans to make the car anywhere else.

"Outside of Japan we only assemble the car in China and for volumes as low as this (200 units), it does not make sense to make the car here," Singh said. "We are hopeful, though, that the government will support hybrid technology and lower
duties so that it becomes affordable for more people."

Prius, however, follows a bad precedent. The Honda Civic hybrid, the country’s first hybrid vehicle, was launched in June 2008 at Rs 21.5 lakh. But its high price put off customers despite its high fuel efficiency and eco-friendly badge.

Subsequently Honda had to dole out a discount of Rs 8.14 lakh to clear inventories, and phased out the model altogether.

What could work in Toyota’s favour is that unlike the Civic and Camry, Prius does not have a gasoline variant.