Toyota launched the Estima Hybrid minivan in Japan in 2001. A new report indicates that the company will launch a Prius hybrid minivan in 2011.
The Japanese Nikkei business daily reported on Friday that Toyota will launch a Prius-badged hybrid minivan. Toyota is not officially confirming the story—so the timing and any other details should be taken with a grain of salt. Nonetheless, it’s exciting news for the following reasons:
1First US Hybrid Minivan
Consumers have been clamoring for a hybrid minivan for years. Besides a subcompact, it’s the only segment that does not have a super-efficient hybrid available in the US. At this point, family-oriented hybrid shoppers looking for three rows of seats to carry up to seven people need to buy an SUV—such as the Toyota Highlander Hybrid or Cadillac Escalade Hybrid. The Prius minivan, according to the report, will be more affordable and flexible than hybrid SUVs. Nikkei states: “Its seat configuration will be flexible to allow for convenient seating and create luggage space. Toyota plans to keep the price of the new Prius minivan at a level similar to those of current Prius models.”
2Toyota and Japan Are Aggressively Adding More Hybrids
Hybrid Minivan Pages
The Nikkei report says the Toyota Prius minivan will be launched in 2011—without specifying when in 2011 and in which markets. It’s safe to say that the Prius minivan will first go to Japan and will be sold in greater numbers there.
In another report from Japan, the Yomiuri Shimbun last week said that Japan’s Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry wants hybrid and electric vehicles to account for 50 percent of new-car sales in Japan by 2020. It also set a target to raise the proportion of “next-generation vehicles” to up to 70 percent of new cars sold in Japan by 2030. These targets blow away nearly every other country’s goals—and they focus on hybrids as well as plug-in cars. Unlike other nations, Japan is backing up its ambitions with proven effective policies, such as higher fuel tax and more generous consumer incentives.