No one can make the case that the Toyota (TM) Prius is just a car for tree-hugging environmentalists. The vehicle has now sold one million units worldwide. The figure is particularly impressive because the Prius tends to cost more than its "gas only" counterparts. The addition of the electric engine is expensive.
The Japanese car company says that the Prius has done a lot to please Al Gore. It even has the numbers to prove it, according to Reuters "Toyota believes that Prius vehicles worldwide have contributed to a reduction in carbon dioxide emissions by producing approximately 4.5 million tonnes less CO2 when compared with gasoline-powered vehicles in the same class and of similar size and driving performance."
Toyota has effectively trumped is competitors again by coming out with a popular model in mass productions years ahead of the rest of the industry. It did the same thing almost three decades ago when it put "zero defect" vehicles into the US market when cars from Detroit were still just a bucket of bolts. Matching Toyota on the quality meter took years and billions of dollars in production and design work.
Having jumped out to another lead, what can Toyota do next? A flying car is probably already on the drawing board.
Douglas A. McIntyre