Toyota Motor Corp. (NYSE: TM) introduced the 2017 Prius Prime, a new version of its Prius plug-in hybrid, earlier this year, but did not offer a manufacturer’s suggested retail price (MSRP). Late last week the company said the Prius Prime will carry a price tag of $27,100 when it goes on sale later this year.
That’s about $6,000 less than the Chevy Volt from General Motors Co. (NYSE: GM), and neither the Volt’s price nor the price of the Prius Prime includes a federal tax credit or any other state incentives.
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimates for the Prime come in a 55 mpg in city driving, 53 mpg on the highway, and 54 mpg combined. Measured by it mile-per-gallon equivalent (MPGe), the Prime gets a rating of 124. The Chevy Volt is rated for 42 mpg combined with an MPGe rating of 106.
And even though both are plug-in hybrids, the Volt battery will move the car down the road for 53 miles compared with just 25 for the Prime. The Prime’s all-electric mileage is double that of the original Prime plug-in hybrid that Toyota discontinued more than a year ago.
Toyota is also considering moving all its Prius cars to a plug-in hybrid (PHEV) model. The company’s assistant chief engineer is reported to have said last week that, “Ultimately, PHEV may be the way to go.”
The company has nearly reached the limits of fuel efficiency in its non-plug-in models, making any improvements to the original Prius quite expensive for quite modest improvements. Consumers are not likely to be willing to pay a premium of $1,000 or $2,000 for a gain of a fraction of a mile per gallon of fuel.
Over at CleanTechnica, James Ayre noted that a company spokesman said that if sales of the Prius Prime are not as good as expected, Toyota may “reconsider” its PHEV strategy. To which Ayre responds:
Because [PHEV technology is] the only reason that the Prius Prime wouldn’t sell well? Because people prefer a non-plug-in-hybrid to a plug-in one? Nothing to do with the strange design of the vehicle? Nothing to do with the fact that there are soon to be Chevy Bolts and Tesla Model 3s available? Nothing to do with the fact that the Chevy Volt offers a lot more and purer electric driving? Toyota execs mystify me sometimes.