TMC’s Environmental Technology Development update: a peek at Toyota and Lexus’ powertrain future (Part 1)

On Monday 24 September, what was ostensibly the press preview for the (very limited) production version of the battery electric variant of the Toyota iQ soon became, in the words of Bertel Schmitt of The Truth About Cars, “the strangest product launch I have ever seen”. Given how much information the usually reticent Toyota revealed regarding its future powertrain plans, press coverage was equally strange, veering between overly simplistic and sensationalist sound bites. Toyota to Launch 21 New Hybrids and a New Fuel Cell Vehicle in the Next Three Years! Toyota drops plan for widespread sales of electric car! Toyota kills electric car plans, says ‘capabilities of electric vehicles do not meet society’s needs’! Ultimately, only a trio of accounts of what transpired at the Universal Design Showcase of Tokyo’s MegaWeb are truly worth reading: the aforementioned Bertel Schmitt of The Truth About Cars‘ “you-are-there” report, Hans Greimel’s Automotive News/Autoweek story for its large number of exclusive tidbits of information and, if you’re really pressed for time, Jake Holmes of Motor Trend‘s summary of the full TMC Announces Status of Its Environmental Technology Development, Future Plans Toyota Global newsroom PDF document. If, however, you prefer deep-dive analysis, commentary, interpretation and informed speculation of the sort Kaizen Factor thrives on, stay with us as we deconstruct Toyota’s newest revelations.

A new 2AR-FXE with D-4S engine variant
The “enhanced engine for use in hybrid vehicles, based on the 2.5-liter AR gasoline engine, (adopting) the Atkinson cycle and D-4S system” is none other than a new D-4S (dual direct+port injection) variant of the 2AR-FXE 2.5-liter 4-cylinder Atkinson cycle hybrid engine used on the current Toyota Camry Hybrid and Lexus ES 300h. The existence of this engine was actually revealed a week earlier, in a Lexus USA Newsroom press release for the Lexus LF-CC concept. In a story for the my.IS website, yours truly figured that it would produce something in the vicinity of 220-225 total system horsepower (versus 200 total system horsepower for the port injection-only 2AR-FXE). Toyota’s Environmental Technology Development news release adds a couple of new bits of information. For one, the 2AR-FXE with D-4S achieves the world’s highest maximum thermal efficiency (38.5%), which translates into the engine producing more power and using less fuel, while wasting less heat.

Hans Greimel also informs us that this iteration of the 2AR-FXE engine will receive Denso’s newly-tweaked D-4S injectors that already appear in the 4th-generation Lexus GS and Scion FR-S/Toyota GT 86. In comparison to the original D-4S injectors that date back to 2006, the new ones use a slit-shaped (as opposed to the previous multihole) injector opening. This creates a richer fuel mixture inside the cylinder and results in 1% better fuel economy.

Toyota reveals that this engine will go on sale sometime during calendar year 2013 in an undisclosed vehicle. Greimel, however, suggests that the Japanese domestic market’s Toyota Crown Hybrid will be the first recipient of the new powerplant. Makes sense, as this would allow for some closer-to-home experience before exporting it in the Crown’s platform-mates, the rumored (and trademarked) Lexus GS 300h and IS 300h versions of the 4th-gen GS and 3rd-gen IS, respectively. Given current rumors that the IS 300h, like the outgoing IS 200d and IS 220d, will only be sold in Europe, expect a debut for the Lexus variants at either the 2013 Geneva Motor Show (press previews on Tuesday 5 and Wednesday 6 March) or, later in the year, at the Frankfurt Motor Show (press previews on Tuesday 10 and Wednesday 11 September).

Beyond its initial applications in Toyota’s new rear-wheel-drive N-platform (launched with the 4th-generation Lexus GS and expected to spread to the upcoming 3rd-generation Lexus IS and 14th-generation [S210 or S220] Toyota Crown), will the 2AR-FXE with D-4S hybrid powertrain eventually migrate to the myriad front-wheel-drive K-platform Toyota Camry derivatives that use the AR 4-cylinder engines? Could be…

A turbocharged 3AR-FTE or (better yet) 3AR-GTE?!
In what is perhaps the biggest surprise of the Environmental Technology Development announcement, Toyota informs us that

Starting 2014, TMC plans to launch a vehicle with a new 2.0-liter, turbo-charged AR engine, also based on the 2.5-liter AR gasoline engine. The new engine’s smaller displacement will provide higher fuel efficiency while the turbocharger will improve output.

In other words, Toyota is meeting the challenge laid down by Volkswagen, General Motors, Ford and Chrysler/Fiat, among others, in going the smaller displacement with a turbo route, all the better to “game” the U.S. EPA fuel economy cycle (and its European and Japanese counterparts) into producing lower consumption numbers realistically achievable only if you drive 24/7 like Grandma on a day she forgot to eat her breakfast. Step on it, spool the turbo up to full boost, and you’ll use more gas than in the naturally-aspirated 2.5, but I digress…

As we noted back in December 2011,

When looking back at Toyota’s boosted gasoline powerplants, the company’s history is akin to Audi’s, with a mix of turbocharging (Supra, 2nd-generation MR2, Toyota Celica All-Trac Turbo/GT-Four) and supercharging (1st-generation MR2, TRD aftermarket kits and Australia’s Aurion TRD). The new millennium, however, has seen nothing but superchargers.

Thus, it’s a 180 degree, back-to-the-future turn for Toyota to turbocharge, as opposed to supercharging, its AR 4-cylinder engine.

Deducing what engine code the new 2-liter AR turbo will use is a fairly straightforward matter. As is the case for Toyota and Lexus’ GR V6 engine family, the smaller the first number, the larger the engine displacement, and vice-versa. The 1AR-FE is a 2.7-liter 4-cylinder engine that debuted in Toyota’s current Venza and Highlander, made a brief appearance in the current Sienna minivan and is also available in the Asian-market Lexus RX 270. The 2AR-FE is its smaller 2.5-liter variant (shown above left) that is available in Toyota’s RAV4 and Camry, the Scion tC coupe and the new throwback-badged Lexus ES 250 for the Chinese market. The 2AR-FXE, of course, is the hybrid version we discussed earlier. Thus, a 2-liter version will be a 3AR. The “F”, per Wikipedia, denotes an economy narrow-angle valve DOHC (dual overhead camshaft) head, while a “G” would make it a performance wide-angle valve DOHC. A “T” for turbo is, of course, obligatory, as is the final “E” for electronic fuel injection. Thus, it would be a 3AR-FTE if it’s more economy-oriented or a 3AR-GTE if it’s performance-oriented. Sure, we definitely prefer the latter, but should also note Toyota GT 86 chief engineer Tetsuya Tada’s thoughts on boost (again from our December 2011 article):

Tada-san favours the supercharger approach because it is simpler to achieve than increasing engine size and doesn’t wreck throttle response as turbocharging might. Indeed Toyota says that turbocharging along with four-wheel drive and wide tyres are what make sports cars boring to drive.

In other words, we suspect a more economy-oriented 3AR-FTE is likelier. As to what 2014 vehicle gets the honors of launching this engine, it’s anybody’s guess, but this author suspects some sort of obscure, low-production variant of the Corolla for the Japanese domestic market. I know our co-editor Flipside909 is rooting for it to power a Volkswagen GTI-rivaling son-of-Corolla FX16 GT-S. Or, perhaps, a non-hybrid Lexus CT 200t sporty hatchback with a proper manual transmission?

Another compelling question is whether or not the so-called 3AR-FTE will use D-4S dual direct+port injection. We suspect not, given the historical issues with aftermarket boost for Toyota’s GR-FSE V6s and how Subaru went direct injection-only when turbocharging the FA20 flat 4.

Toyota’s small ND diesel gets a reprieve for Europe
In our first article on the BMW/Toyota alliance, we figured that Toyota wouldn’t bother to reengineer its aging diesel engines to meet upcoming Euro 6 standards. It turns out we were wrong, at least insofar as the smallest of them all, the 1.4-liter 1ND-TV. As the carmaker informs us,

The adoption of newly developed exhaust gas cleaning technology enabled the engine to pass the Euro 6, one of the most stringent exhaust emission standards in the world. Vehicles equipped with the new diesel engine are planned for launch starting 2015.

Thus, expect the 1ND-TV to soldier on in Toyota’s Yaris, Auris, Corolla, iQ, Ractis/Verso-S and Urban Cruiser (Toyota ist/Scion xD) lines, as well as in India-built versions of the Etios and Etios Liva models. On the other hand, the press release is silent on the ultimate fate of Toyota’s medium-sized AD 4-cylinder diesels. Expect those to be replaced by BMW diesels as of 2014.

i-ART: another Toyota/Denso fuel injection breakthrough
Throughout this article, D-4S, the first-ever dual direct+port injection system pioneered by Toyota and automotive supplier Denso, has been a recurring theme. Flying under the radar, however, the latter (itself a member of the Toyota Group conglomerate) announced, in December 2011, the creation of i-ART (intelligent-Accuracy Refinement Technology) the world’s first autonomous closed-loop diesel fuel injection control system. In essence, this system equips each injector with a pressure sensor that communicates its fuel pressure to the engine ECU and, in doing so, significantly reduces exhaust emissions and increases fuel efficiency, compared with the conventional open-looped technology that does not have feedback function from the injectors. i-ART-equipped versions of the 3-liter 1KD-FTV 4-cylinder diesel debuted in the Brazilian market version of the Hilux pickup truck in April 2012. Given the ease with which a 2-liter diesel i-ART test unit met upcoming Euro 6 emisions standards, we wouldn’t be surprised if this technology spread throughout the KD diesel engine family (including the smaller 2.5-liter 2KD-FTV) and to other Toyota truck-based lines such as Land Cruiser Prado and Third World models such as Fortuner, Innova and Hiace. And, if this technology is so emissions-friendly, wouldn’t it be cool to see these diesels in North America’s expansive truck-based Toyota line, not to mention in Lexus’ GX as a rival to the German luxury diesel SUVs? Then again, 3 liters is awfully large for a 4-cylinder engine, and the Germans use 6 cylinder diesels in this size segment, at least in North America, so the KD might be a bit crude for Lexus duty…

Arrghh! Toyota’s CVTs spread beyond hybrids, Europe and Japan
As Toyota’s Environmental Technology Development update shifts its focus from engines to transmissions, discussion begins with one of this author’s pet peeves: CVTs, or continuously variable transmissions. I’m still regretting the way in which the traditional manual transmission with a clutch pedal is becoming a dinosaur of an endangered species, but at least modern torque-converter automatic transmissions and so-called single and dual-clutch (but no clutch pedal) transmissions purport to maintain some level of driver control via “manumatic” modes, gates and paddle shifters. CVTs, on the other hand, are far less likely to offer these options. As of now, dissatisfaction with the “manual mode” paddle shift feel on the Lexus CT 200h’s CVT transaxle led to a decision to limit this option to the Japanese domestic market. Indeed, the so-called “rubber band feel” of CVTs and the way they hold high revs while the car barely seems to move is off-putting to many.

Yet, CVTs also have their virtues, fuel efficiency chief among them. They are also the best way to manage hybrid powertrains, as tepid reviews of hybrids with torque-converter automatics such as the Infiniti M and the Hyundai Sonata/Kia Optima fraternal twins can attest to. At any rate, a number of carmakers, such as Nissan and Subaru have staked their future on the CVT, and Honda and Audi also use them on some models. We certainly hold out hope that diligent engineering will result in future CVTs that…er…don’t suck, as Nissan seems determined to do.

Perhaps we’re dismissive because, in North America, the Scion iQ is the sole non-hybrid Toyota product using a CVT, whereas Japan and Europe offer a plethora of CVT-equipped models. In the latter market, so-called Multidrive (M/D) and paddle shifter-equipped Multidrive S (M/D S) models use the CVT. These, by the way, should not be confused with Multimode Manual Transmission (M/M) models that use a type of sequential manual transmission consisting of a traditional manual gearbox with an electronically controlled clutch (but no clutch pedal). The Environmental Technology Development press release touts

TMC’s newly developed continuously variable transmission, Super CVT-i, (that) has achieved both superior fuel efficiency and smooth acceleration due to its unsurpassed transmission efficiency, improved integrated engine control and reductions in both size and weight. The transmission, first installed on the Corolla for the Japanese market in June 2012, is planned for use on additional models, particularly in the compact segment.

Perhaps those additional models include the upcoming North American version of the 11th-generation (E160) Toyota Corolla.

From the folks that brought you the world’s first 8-speed automatic transmission, the world’s first 8-speed automatic transaxle
Back in 2006, Japan’s automatic transmission manufacturer Aisin AW rocked an automotive world accustomed to 4, 5 and 6-speed automatics by designing the TL-80SN, the first-ever 8-speed automatic transmission. Suitable for rear-wheel-drive applications, it debuted in the 2007 XF40 (4th-generation) Lexus LS 460. The AA80E transmission, as Toyota calls it, soon spread through their V8 car lineup, namely the Lexus IS F, the late, lamented Lexus GS 460 and the Toyota Crown Majesta. Nearly 2 years later, German automotive supplier ZF countered with its own 8-speed longitudinal automatic transmission, the 8HP. After launching with the 5th-generation (F01/F02) BMW 7-Series, the 8HP quickly spread to other brands such as Audi, Bentley, Chrysler, Jaguar, Land Rover and Rolls-Royce. Hyundai, meanwhile, developed its own 8-speed automatic for use in the Genesis and Equus lines.

Notice, though, that even the highly flexible ZF 8HP unit is a longitudinal transmission, used by Audi only in its longitudinally-engined lines (A4 thru A8), and not in its smaller (A3 and below, plus TT) transverse-engine models. Leave it, again, to Toyota and Aisin to follow up the pioneering TL-80SN / AA80E with the world’s first transversely-mounted 8-speed automatic transaxle, the U880F which premiered on the all-wheel-drive Lexus RX 350 F Sport SUV for the North American market in August 2012. And, stay tuned, for Toyota strongly hints that the U880, presumably in “regular” (front-wheel-drive) and F (AWD) iterations, should eventually spread throughout Lexus and Toyota’s FWD-centric models.

21 new hybrid models between now and the end of 2015
Among the numerous revelations contained in Toyota’s Environmental Technology Development update, the claim you see above is among those that has been most widely reported and generated the most buzz. Yet, to our knowledge, no one has attempted to name the 21 vehicles. And, frankly, we’re not about to either, at least not in the in-depth manner in which we dared to guess at the 7 all-new hybrids, 4 revised existing hybrids and 19 new or revised models for North America due by the end of calendar year 2012. The nearly 3½-year time frame and the global (including Lexus) nature of this list makes even Kaizen Factor‘s crystal ball go all blurry and erratic. Further confusing things is what Toyota means by “now”. The Monday 24 September 2012 date of Toyota’s Environmental Technology Development update? Or the August 2012 date mentioned in a couple of Toyota’s footnotes? This seemingly picayune point is key in determining whether or not the Lexus ES 300h, which went on sale in the United States and Canada during August 2012, is part of the list of 21.

Hans Greimel of Automotive News did note, however, that 14 will be either all-new nameplates or hybrid versions of vehicles that don’t currently come with an electric-gasoline option, leaving 7 next-generation, or full-model changes to existing hybrids. The latter are easier to guess at, and we figure that next-generation hybrid versions of Toyota Auris, Toyota Prius, Toyota Highlander, Toyota Estima (a primarily Japanese domestic market minivan that is a bit smaller than the Sienna), Toyota Crown, Lexus RX and Lexus LS are the likeliest 7.

And what about the 14 all-new nameplates or hybrid versions of vehicles that don’t currently offer an electric-gasoline option? These run the gamut from the obvious (The Toyota Avalon which will go on sale by the end of 2012 and the trademarked Lexus IS 300h) to the safe bet guesses to the flat-out speculative. And, speaking of Lexus, do rumored additional, alternate-engined versions of existing hybrids (think Lexus CT 300h, Lexus GS 300h or Lexus LS 450h) count separately among the 21?

Our previous Informed Speculation articles suggested hybrid versions of Toyota Avensis, Toyota Sienna, Toyota RAV4 and, perhaps, Toyota Venza. With the 11th-generation (E160) Corolla already available in Japan in a couple of variants and its Auris offshoot already hybridized, don’t be surprised if a Toyota Corolla hybrid becomes available. Don’t expect, however, a future version, hybrid or otherwise of the Toyota Matrix, which will die at the end of the 2013 model year.

Talk of a potential RAV4 hybrid reminds us that its upcoming 4th-generation (XA40) is expected to sire a Lexus sibling, which could wear the Lexus TX 300h moniker. And might the brand’s two recent hybrid concept coupes – LF-CC and LF-LC – lead to production versions bearing, say, Lexus IC 300h and Lexus LC 600h badges?

And what about the Toyota/Ford collaboration on a “new co-developed hybrid system ready for use later this decade on…rear-wheel-drive light trucks and SUVs”? Does that mean we’ll see hybrid Toyota Tundra and Toyota Sequoia models by the end of 2015? Hard to say, since the original Toyota Global and USA news releases from 22 August 2011 not only fail to mention any prospective production dates but promised to move from Memorandum of Understanding to formal production agreement “by next year” – meaning 2012 – yet, with less than 3 months to go before year’s end, nothing has happened. Might an announcement be forthcoming at the 2012 Los Angeles Auto Show press conferences on Wednesday 28 or Thursday 29 November?

Finally, Lord knows what obscure Japanese domestic market-only hybrids Toyota will come up with. For example, this author vaguely recalls reading something about possible hybrid versions of the oddball, asymmetrical door (single slider on the left, two regular doors on the right) Toyota Porte/Spade twins. Not much of a stretch, really, since they share their underpinnings (read NBC, or New Basic Car platform) with Yaris and Prius c/Aqua.

Thus ends Part 1 of our in-depth analysis and commentary on Toyota’s Environmental Technology Development update, which corresponds to the Initiatives for Energy Conservation section of the news release, focusing on improvements to conventional gasoline, diesel and hybrid powertrains. Stay tuned for Part 2, which will feature our thoughts on Initiatives for Fuel Diversification, as Toyota describes various degrees of electrification such as plug-in hybrids, battery electric vehicles and fuel cells. This will conclude with a Beyond the News Release section featuring additional background information, much of it from journalists that attended the actual press event in Japan.

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Lexus CT 200h outsells Toyota Prius in China!

Press accounts detailing the Toyota Prius sales juggernaut all over the world are too numerous to link here, but, believe it or not, that is not the case in China, the world’s largest automobile market. Buried in a Reuters article on Mercedes-Benz parent Daimler AG’s hopes for its China-only Venza Denso Denza luxury electric car is this fascinating and totally unexpected factoid:

As a sign of the promise of Daimler and BYD’s approach (of focusing on a luxury “green” car, Daimler AG’s Beijing design chief Olivier) Boulay points to the upscale Lexus gasoline-electric hybrid car model called CT 200h. Despite starting at about 280,000 yuan ($44,300), the car outsold the Prius, which is about 50,000 yuan ($7,900) cheaper. Sales of the Lexus hybrid totaled 3,900 cars for the three months ended April 30, compared with the 450 Prius cars that Toyota sold during the same period.

In other words, those numbers indicate that, between February 1 and April 30 of this year, Lexus CT 200h outsold Toyota Prius by a 17 to 2 ratio! This topsy-turvy state of affairs is surely unique in the world and unlikely to be repeated elsewhere. Ever-shifting Chinese laws are a huge factor in this unusual situation. As China Auto Web explains:

From 2005 to 2009, FAW-Toyota had built the second generation Prius in Changchun of Northeast China. High-priced (starting at 259,000 yuan, or $39,000) and receiving no government subsidies, the hybrid delivered only about 3,700 units in China in four years…

(T)he new (3rd-generation) Prius, a non-plug-in with a 1.8-liter gasoline engine, is barred from receiving China’s green car subsidies, which go only to models with engine displacements smaller than 1.6 liter and plug-in hybrid or pure electric models…

Besides pricing, Toyota seems also worried about losing its hybrid tech secrets. An official of FAW-Toyota has recently been quoted as saying, “Certain government agencies have requested detailed information about the third generation Prius, while Toyota has been reluctant to disclose key data.”

Thus, both Prius and CT 200h are subject to 25% import duties, and status and brand-conscious Chinese customers in that general price range may as well splurge on a Lexus CT. And, while long-term, Daimler AG’s plans may well succeed, it’s by no means a sure-shot success. After all, Daimler is teaming up with China’s BYD, notable for its stock holdings by Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway and its electric car offerings. Yet, as Yale Zhang, head of the Shanghai-based consulting firm, Automotive Foresight noted:

…the idea to market Denza green cars as luxury vehicles is “reasonable”. But are Chinese consumers going to accept Denza as a premium brand?

“It’s a brand-new name and everybody knows BYD is behind it,” Zhang says, citing BYD’s imprint as a low-cost manufacturer.

Still, for now, Lexus is seemingly well-placed and ahead of the game insofar as luxury hybrid gasoline-electric C-segment vehicles. Rival hybrid and battery electric vehicles from its German rivals are still some way off, as is Infiniti’s dual-pronged plan of a European-built non-hybrid, Mercedes A-Class-derived hatchback and a Nissan Leaf-derived BEV sedan.

Photo credit: auto.163.com

Toyota Prius c / Aqua illustration and info leaks from Japan

In the Internet age of automotive journalism, it has become something of a cottage industry to scan and post press brochures and internal training and information material ahead of their official release. This author certainly recalls the pivotal role played by World Car Fans in leaking the Lexus CT 200h press brochure a week ahead of the car’s 2 March 2010 world debut at the Geneva Auto Show. Now Carscoop has similarly obtained, via tipster i-Ryuji, 33 pages’ worth of scans of what appears to be illustrations and specifications of Toyota’s upcoming Aqua a.k.a Prius c, some of which also appear in this article.

Curiously, none of the otherwise detailed illustrations nor any of the Japanese text show any sort of badge or model name for this clearly hybrid Toyota, but there’s a 90+% likelihood that it’s Prius c / Aqua we’re looking at. Accurately described by Sebastián Blanco of AutoblogGreen as looking like a Toyota Prius / Nissan Leaf mashup with the barest hint of the original Prius c concept, the newest Toyota hybrid is attractive enough for a B-segment 5-door hatchback (except for the overwrought taillights), if lacking the absolute aero hybrid look of its big brother Prius.

Among the more intriguing bits to emerge is the trio of trim levels (G, S and L, from most basic to best-appointed) for the Japanese domestic market and a selection of exterior colors that includes new shades of white (082), red-orange (4V7), and a light aqua bearing either the 3V7 or 8V7 color code, plus the 2009-10 Yaris sedan’s 8T7 Blue Streak Metallic and the eye-popping 5A3 High Voltage yellow from the current Scion tC Release Series 7.0 (are you listening, ToyotaReference?)

Yet another image reveals specifications that include a 2550mm (100.4″) wheelbase that matches the outgoing Toyota Yaris sedan’s (as opposed to the 3rd-gen Yaris hatchback’s 2510 mm/98.8″), a 3995mm (157.3″) overall length, 1695mm (66.7″) width and 1,445mm (56.9″) height. Mention of a 1496cc 4-cylinder engine could be a tacit confirmation of this author’s earlier prediction that Prius c / Aqua would use the 1NZ-FXE 1.5-liter 4-cylinder powertrain from the 2nd-generation Toyota Prius, itself a hybridized version of the 1NZ-FE engine used on all past and current Toyota Yaris models sold in North America. Unless, of course, Toyota’s North America operations decide on a zippier Prius c powered by the current larger Prii / Lexus CT 200h’s 1.8-liter 2ZR-FXE powertrain.

As to the Prius c / Aqua’s debut, Carscoop is predicting a world debut at the 2011 Tokyo Motor Show this coming December (where it threatens to get lost amidst the expected FR-S / BRZ hoopla) an on-sale date of January 2012 and a North American debut in Detroit (a possible world debut for the Prius c-badged version) that same month. In an unexpected 180-degree turn from their January 2011 prediction, Autocar now believes that Prius c stands a chance of being sold in Europe alongside the expected Yaris HSD, and predicts a European debut at the 2012 Geneva Auto Show in March. Curious, given the potential for cannibalization from the cheaper (yet, probably, more profitable in Europe) hybrid Yaris.

The full Carscoop gallery includes more goodies such as interior shots, alternate wheel styles and even a couple of accessory body kits (perhaps to be sold as Modellista, TRD or G Sports items in Japan, and as a Prius PLUS body kit in North America)

Is the upcoming Toyota Aqua the Japanese domestic market version of Prius c?

A Reuters article, itself sourced from Japan’s Nikkei business daily, informs us that Toyota plans to launch a new compact hybrid car in January 2012 bearing the Aqua badge. Aqua is said to be the most economical gasoline-electric hybrid ever made, with listed mileage of just under 40 km/litre (94 mpg), versus Prius’ 32 km/litre (75 mpg) in the Japanese fuel economy cycle, in spite of its predicted use of the larger Prius’ 1.8-liter 2ZR-FXE powertrain. The newest Toyota is likely to sell for around 1.7 million yen ($22,000) in Japan, about 300,000 yen ($3900) less than the Prius, and will target younger drivers and women.

So what, precisely, is this enigmatic Aqua? This author suspects that it’s simply the Japanese domestic market’s badge for the upcoming Toyota Prius c, itself expected to make its production version debut at the Detroit Auto Show in January 2012. Keep in mind, though, that, beyond Prius and Prius Alpha (the JDM version of our new Prius v), Toyota’s Japanese hybrid model-only strategy is broader than ours, including the SAI (essentially a less luxurious version of the Lexus HS) and the new JDM strategy of Camry as their largest hybrid-only front-wheel-drive sedan. Thus, there is a possibility that Aqua will coexist with a JDM Prius c as an alternative for one of Toyota’s four Japanese dealer networks.

As to Europe, it is our understanding that neither Prius c nor its Aqua variant will be sold there. The expected plan is for Toyota to meet demand for a B-segment gasoline-electric hybrid with better-than-Prius fuel economy with an HSD (Hybrid Synergy Drive) version of the just-launched 3rd-generation Yaris, built in Valenciennes, France with hybrid componentry imported from Deeside, Wales.

Is Toyota working on a manual transmission hybrid powertrain for a Prius Sport Coupe?

Although, to date, Toyota has only confirmed Prius Alpha/v/+, Plug-In and upcoming Prius c additions to the growing Prius family, rumors have been reported over the past couple of years of a Sport Coupe Prius as a later derivative, and the fanciful rendering above (from Japan’s Holiday Auto) certainly bears a Lexus LFA-meets-7th-generation Toyota Celica mashup feel to it. To date, these rumors have been met by this author with a “meh” and a shrug, writing off the very notion of a Prius Sport Coupe as a secretary’s chick car for Southern California tree huggers.

Although Lexus certainly proved that even front-wheel-drive hybrid chassis could be made into somewhat entertaining handlers with the CT and even HS models, a CVT (continuously variable) transmission often emerges as the weak link in the fun-to-drive chain. After all, attempts to add to the CT 200h’s enthusiast cred via a “manual” mode and paddle shifters for the CVT ended up with disappointed engineers deeming it not worthy for export, relegating it to a Japanese Domestic Market option with hopes for future improvement. In a recent report by Japan-based Australian journalist Peter Lyon which appeared in both a recent print edition of Evo magazine and on Motor Trend‘s website, however, Lyon paints a picture of a far more enthusiast-friendly Prius Sport Coupe. A passage from the article states that

One of the highlights of this coupe will be the option of a manual transmission that Toyota is developing for hybrids at the Higashi-Fuji proving ground near Mt. Fuji. That manual gearbox will be bolted to the company’s next-generation hybrid system with plug-in capability, a system that will be completely new and not inherited from the Prius.

While this reflexively brings on cheers and hurrahs from the row-your-own, Save the Manuals! crowd, this author nevertheless is somewhat skeptical. After all, Honda’s CR-Z hybrid 2-seater, available with a manual transmission, has met with both tepid reviews and sales. Granted, Toyota’s Hybrid System Drive is miles ahead of Honda’s Integrated Motor Assist in terms of both refinement and fuel economy, and a manual Toyota HSD powertrain sounds intriguing, but still…

Regardless of transmission, one would imagine a Prius Sport Coupe as a front-wheel-drive derivative of Toyota’s MC platform architecture, just like the Prius 5-door hatchbacks, Toyota Avensis, Lexus HS… and the Scion tC coupe. With the upcoming Scion FR-S rear-wheel-drive sports coupe coming in less than a year, there is serious potential for cannibalization with tC, and updating the front-wheel-drive tC as a Toyota-badged hybrid sounds like a logical solution to this issue. Yet, Lyon suggests this is not the case. Instead,

Our spies tell us that the sports coupe will employ a rear-drive platform and will incorporate the plug-in hybrid unit with lightweight Li-ion batteries that generate significantly more power than the current Prius

Thus, he suggests that a Prius Sport Coupe would, instead, be one more possible FT-86 derivative. Again, this is something we would love to see, yet can’t help but feel skeptical about.

Two months on from the Japan earthquakes and tsunami

As the world marks the grim 2-month anniversary of the Great East Japan Earthquake and its ensuing aftermath, it is time for us at Kaizen Factor to offer an overview of where Toyota and its multiple affiliates stand in their efforts to return to a semblance of normalcy. A month ago our focus seemed to be primarily on production schedules and donations for relief efforts. Now, there is more of a varied grab-bag of information to offer. One new theme, however, is the overall profit-and-loss picture of Toyota and its affiliates, given that the Japanese fiscal year runs from 1 April to 31 March, and results for the 2011 fiscal year have just been released. Given that timing, only the last 2½ weeks of the 2011 fiscal year were materially affected by the natural disasters. Quite understandably, though, Japanese carmakers are hesitant to give guidance and predictions for the 2012 fiscal year that just started, given all the uncertainty surrounding the return to full production.

TOYOTA (including LEXUS and SCION)
Toyota’s financial results for the 2011 fiscal year (1 April 2010-31 March 2011) are, predictably enough, a mixed bag. For the die-hard pencil-pusher bean-counter accountant geek types who want to pore over every single number, we invite you to look beyond us to the Wall Street Journal or Forbes, or to the official press releases in Toyota’s USA and Global Newsrooms. For the rest of us, an excellent first place to look is Bertel Schmitt of The Truth About Cars‘ analysis and commentary. He starts by accentuating the positive and noting that Toyota finished the 2011 fiscal year with a group net profit of 408.1 billion yen ($5 billion), up 95% versus the previous fiscal year. This despite an ever-strengthening yen that is driving the company – and a lot of the Japanese industry – “to the limit”, in the words of Toyota’s Chief Financial Officer Satoshi Ozawa. He then went on to put the impact of the March 11 earthquake and tsunami at 110 billion yen ($1.36 billion) in lost operating income for the final 2½ weeks of the fiscal year.

Other sources such as Bloomberg and Automotive News focused on the more sobering 77% plunge in net income in the fiscal 4th quarter (1 January 2011 thru 31 March 2011), while Executive Vice President Atsushi Niimi had earlier estimated that Toyota may have lost output of 300,000 vehicles in Japan and 100,000 overseas through the end of April due to quake-related shutdowns.

Further adding to the storm clouds on the horizon is Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan’s request for the closure of the Hamaoka nuclear power plant, about 190 kilometers (118 miles) southwest of Tokyo. Although located in Shizuoka Prefecture (home to numerous Suzuki and Yamaha facilities, plus a couple of Honda’s), it also supplies power to neighboring Aichi Prefecture, where a dozen Toyota vehicle and parts assembly plants are located (see the two lower right inset boxes in the illustration above and the Japanese Production Site page from the Toyota Global website). Currently, 32 of Japan’s 54 nuclear reactors are down, 11 of them shut down after the March 11 earthquake and tsunami and the other 21 had been previously down for inspections. Chubu Electric plans to build a seawall of at least 12 meters (39 feet) height at the Hamaoka power plant to better protect it against potential earthquake or tsunami damage, a process that will take about 2 or 3 years. Indeed, worries abound over the facility’s vulnerability, with Reuters citing government experts’ prediction of an 87% probability of a magnitude 8.0 quake hitting the Hamaoka area in the next 30 years, beg the question of why it was built there in the first place.

While the Hamaoka plant plans to soldier on by using liquefied natural gas for thermal power generation, its shutdown was the catalyst that finally prodded the Japan Automobile Manufacturers Association (JAMA) into adopting a long-discussed rotating power-rationing plan. As Bertel Schmitt of The Truth About Cars describes it, the 3 carmakers with production facilities served by the Hamaoka power plant (Toyota, Suzuki and Mitsubishi) will rotate days off amongst themselves, while Nikkei later added that “(JAMA) has decided to shut down production at auto plants on Thursdays and Fridays between July and September as a summer power-saving measure. Automakers will instead operate their plants on Saturdays and Sundays.”

Add to the above manufacturing woes the strong Japanese yen (a point touched upon in the second paragraph of this story) and you have a clear and compelling case for Toyota to move as much manufacturing capacity out of Japan as possible. The carmaker needs an exchange rate of 85 yen per U.S. dollar to break even. Yet, as we write this, each dollar only brings back to Japan barely 80.8 yen. Addressing the obvious need to tackle this situation lest Toyota find itself forced to cut back on its historically high Japanese manufacturing presence (38% of its vehicles, versus Honda and Nissan’s 25%), Bertel Schmitt tell of a curious good cop/bad cop exchange between Toyota President Akio Toyoda and his Chief Financial Officer Satoshi Ozawa. Toyoda said that:

“(I am trying) hard to preserve jobs in Japan. Toyota was born in Japan, raised in Japan and is now a global company. I love Japan, and I want to keep the tradition of manufacturing strong here…The auto industry has a very broad reach, and we have the ability to drive Japan’s recovery during these very tough times…By enlisting the cooperation of you, the media of Japan, I hope you can generate a strong force for creating a better environment for the manufacturing sector, so that it can remain viable in Japan. We are a carmaker which has a strong desire to sustain and preserve the manufacturing base here in Japan and I hope I can enlist your support and cooperation.”

while Ozawa rhetorically asks:

“How much longer should we insist on producing in Japan? I feel strongly that our efforts may have exceeded the limits of what is possible in dealing with the yen’s impact. The current valuation of the yen represents the limit for conducting manufacture in Japan. Our strongest competitors are the German manufacturers and the Korean manufacturers, they enjoy their cheaper domestic currencies. There is a huge competitiveness gap between ourselves and these competitors because of the exchange rate… From the viewpoint of risk diversification, some people may argue for relocating production in Japan. If the negative exchange rate factors continue to stay, that relocation will take place not within Japan, but outside of Japan. And once that takes place, it will result in a complete hollowing out of the Japanese industrial base. To avoid that I hope that appropriate countermeasures or appropriate policies will be taken, so that the hollowing out can be avoided…As long as the president (Akio Toyoda) is saying, ‘Let’s keep fighting and get through this’ we will do that. But as the one responsible for the coffers, I have to say that the current environment makes it very, very difficult.”

Ultimately, though, Akio Toyoda admitted that

“I fully understand that we can’t go on with just a desire to protect manufacturing in Japan.”

Bloomberg notes that the stronger yen cut operating profit by 290 billion yen ($3.6 billion) in the fiscal year ended March 31. That’s more than the 110 billion-yen cost from the 9-magnitude temblor and tsunami during the last 2½ weeks of the 2011 fiscal year. As Jim Hall of 2953 Analytics predicts, “You’re going to see more investment from (Toyota) in southeast Asia, more in China, though it’s trickier there because they work with two local partners. They’ll probably expand in Europe as well, with a focus on eastern Europe.”

Prospective Toyota, Scion or Lexus buyers will probably be concerned over more mundane matters of product availability. Mark Rechtin of Automotive News informs us that the company can still build every model in its U.S. lineup, although that may not be true by the end of this month. Rechtin, amply citing Randy Pflughaupt, head of sales administration for Toyota Motor Sales U.S.A., sheds some insight into how the crisis has led to changes in the way dealers order cars. Toyota typically has allowed dealers to put in orders for specific vehicles about two months ahead of delivery. For North American-built vehicles, the window for dealers has been cut to about two weeks before it is built, while for Japan-built vehicles, dealers now cannot place an order until a vehicle is already on a ship coming across the Pacific Ocean. While there is currently a big level of uncertainty of what will be built and when it will be built, Pflughaupt reassures us that Toyota won’t load up every single vehicle with factory options to extract more profit from each one that is sold. He also noted that the post-recall crisis decision to grant individual global regions more decision-making autonomy and improve communications between the company’s sales, distribution and manufacturing arms greatly benefitted post-quake response. As Pflughaupt recalls, “We had this team all put together. We had the roles, structure and ability to mobilize it. Within eight hours of the quake hitting, we were off and running.”

Bob Carter, Toyota’s group vice president for U.S. sales, said that the company’s 47-day supply of vehicles at the start of May varies by model, with Toyota Prius currently at a less than 10-day supply. Yet, as is usually the case with Prius, there is a mass of conflicting information out there. HybridCars via Reuters reminds us that Prius sales are up 51½% in the first three months of 2011 and that “most of the cars heading to dealers are spoken for and those that aren’t are often snapped up as soon as they arrive at dealerships”, with those that usually stock about 30 Priuses now are suddenly reduced to a handful of new models with a limited selection of trim packages and color choices, plus one or two used cars. On the other hand, Edmunds Auto Observer notes that Prius sales in April plummetted by 33%, with unsold cars at most dealerships. Other Toyota-brand hybrids were also down versus the previous month, with Camry Hybrid off 23% percent and the Highlander Hybrid down 52%. The Lexus side of the family was more of a mixed bag. The brand’s newest hybrid, the CT 200h was a victim of post-quake production constraints, with April’s 875 cars sold a huge 60% drop from March’s 2199 sales, and RX 450h sales declined by 19%. On the other hand, Lexus’ 3 remaining hybrids (HS 250h, GS 450h and LS 600hL) saw nominal sales gains in April over March.

Lest you think everything is doom and gloom, there are some bits of good news and progress. A Toyota Global News release updates the earlier timeline for production recovery with a projected ramp up of production starting in June 2011 on a global basis, rather than the earlier July in Japan and August outside Japan plans. June production should be at approximately 70% of normal on a global basis, depending on the region and the vehicle model. The ultimate goal of a return to normal production in the November-December 2011 time frame remains unchanged.

As to more specific North America plans, the Toyota USA Newsroom and Joseph Lichterman of Automotive News provide some guidance, noting that Toyota’s Avalon, Camry, Corolla, Highlander, Matrix, Sequoia, Sienna and Venza are expected to return to normal 100% production levels (two production shifts five days per week) some time in June, while Toyota Tacoma, Tundra, RAV-4 and Lexus RX 350 output in North America will remain at current reduced production levels. Also, the 150 individual components whose procurement was particularly troublesome have now been whittled down to 30. In addition, Christie Schweinsberg of WardsAuto.com reports that “Toyota’s new Blue Springs, Mississippi, plant is on track to open this fall, despite capacity shortfalls at other Toyota North America plants”. Helping the process along, no doubt, is the fact that much of its Corolla-building tooling comes from the shuttered Fremont, California NUMMI facility. To be precise, Blue Springs acquired NUMMI’s main press, which stamps 17 different body panels, and roughly 70%-75% of the weld shop equipment also comes from the California plant. The Blue Springs’ facility’s vice president in charge of production and administration support, David Copenhaver, proudly reminds us that, “the time lapse from last June’s construction restart to production launch this fall is the shortest we’ve ever had in history for a new plant and a new vehicle.”

Meanwhile, halfway around the world, Reuters informs us that Toyota’s trio of Thai manufacturing facilities (the Samrong plant in Samutprakan and the Gateway and Banpho plants in Chachoengsao) will return to normal production on Monday 23 May, two weeks earlier than previously predicted.

More good news is that the Xirallic paint additive sourced solely from Merck KGaA’s Onahama factory in Japan is now newly available, as production was restarted on Sunday 8 May, about 3½ weeks ahead of originally-scheduled plans. The company is also looking to make the pigment at a second plant in Germany. Unlike Ford and Chrysler, which publicly released a list of car paints affected by the almost 2 month-long lack of the Xirallic additive, Toyota never followed suit, but diverse sources speculate that Lexus’ Matador Red Mica, Stargazer Black and Cerulean Blue Metallic, as well as numerous Toyota and Lexus shades of white were most affected.

Finally, Autoblog and San Antonio, Texas CBS-TV affiliate KENS 5 inform us that, during non-production time (currently Mondays, Fridays and half days Tuesday thru Thursday), workers at the local Toyota Tundra and Tacoma production facility may earn their pay either by completing on-site training or helping to build homes for Habitat for Humanity. A Toyota spokesperson said this effort is all about giving back, respecting people and constantly improving. Ah, yes, the spirit of Kaizen, even in the midst of adversity.

SUBARU
We last checked in on the Pleiades-logoed carmaker on Wednesday 13 April, where we wrote about the U.S. Lafayette, Indiana plant’s schedule until Monday 25 April. Yet, even as Automotive News’ Crisis in Japan sidebar reported the resumption of full eight-hour shifts of production for Legacy, Outback and Tribeca models in Indiana from Tuesday 26 April thru Thursday 26 May, the publication’s own Hans Gremel reported that Subaru’ U.S. auto production will limp along at 80% of normal levels until summer and gradually ramp up to normal by November. Vehicles are currently being assembled from parts in inventory, and sizable shipments of new parts from Japan should come around August. The company’s Japanese assembly plants are also operating at limited output.

Subaru’s Consolidated Financial Results and Year-End Financial Results for the 2011 fiscal year reported an annual operating profit of 84.1 billion yen ($1.1 billion), about three times the 27.4 billion yen booked in 2009/10 and the carmaker’s highest in 9 years. This was tempered by a decline in domestic Japanese sales, the loss of 15,000 car sales in the 2½-week aftermath of the earthquake and a 7.4 billion yen ($89.3 million) charge in the fourth quarter to cover quake-related costs, including 2.5 billion yen ($30.2 million) to repair plant facilities and dealerships.

The mostly stellar numbers were a bit overshadowed by other news. Announced jointly with the 2011 fiscal year numbers were the ascention of (Subaru parent) Fuji Heavy Industries President and Chief Executive Officer Ikuo Mori to the Chairman/CEO position while current Corporate Executive Vice President and head of Subaru’s domestic sales Yasuyuki Yoshinaga becomes President and Chief Operating Officer as well as other executive moves. Also, Japan’s Nikkan Kogyo, via AutoWeek reports that Subaru has decided to stop research and development of a next-generation Tribeca. Although no timetable is given for the end of production of the current version, its dismal sales of only 910 units in the year through April, and its occupying valuable production space at Subaru’s Indiana plant better devoted to building the far more popular Outback and Legacy models hint at this happening sooner rather than later.

DAIHATSU
When we last checked on Toyota’s small car-building affiliate Daihatsu, production had restarted at just 2 of the company’s 4 Japanese facilities. Since then, subsequent updates on Daihatsu’s official English-language News page expanded the timeline as follows:

Monday 18 April: Scheduled production restart at the Head Plant at Ikeda in Osaka Prefecture and at the Kyoto Plant. Production at all 4 Daihatsu facilities is at 50% of normal capacity thru Thursday 28 April.

Friday 29 April thru Thursday 5 May: All facilities closed for the spring Golden Week holidays.

Friday 6 May: Restart of vehicle production with two-shift operations at the Shiga Plant, and at both Plant 1 and Plant 2 of the Kyushu Oita facility, including production of aftermarket/replacement parts and of parts for overseas production and knocked-down kits for overseas assembly.

Tuesday 10 May: Restart of vehicle production with one-shift operation at the Head (Ikeda) Plant and at the Kyoto Plant, including production of aftermarket/replacement parts and of parts for overseas production and knocked-down kits for overseas assembly.

English-language commentary and analysis on Daihatsu’s 2011 fiscal year is not readily available, save for a stray “the company booked a big jump in annual income” remark. In fact, other recent Daihatsu-related information revolves around Malaysia’s largest carmaker, Perodua, itself 35% owned by Daihatsu. With Malaysia being Daihatsu’s largest market outside Japan, it is to be expected that the company would focus much of its resources there. The local Paul Tan blog informs us that Perodua has weathered the post-Japan earthquake environment reasonably well. While around 23 engine components and accessories, plus paint, are sourced from Japan, production cutbacks since March were limited to the elimination of overtime and weekend production, with both shifts remaining. Overtime is expected to be restored some time around June or July.

Meanwhile, a Bloomberg report suggests that Perodua will accelerate the construction of a planned facility that will build electronic automatic transmissions to begin late this year and start actual production in late 2012. The factory will initially serve the Malaysian domestic market, before beginning exports a few years later, possibly including to Japan.

HINO
The majority-owned-by-Toyota truckmaker informed us, via the Hino Global website’s 2011 News Release page that reduced production took place from Monday 18 April thru Wednesday 27 April and, after a break for the Golden Week holidays, resumed, again at a reduced pace, from Tuesday 10 May thru Friday 3 June. Bloomberg, meanwhile, informs us that the maker of buses and trucks reported a net loss of 10 billion yen for the fiscal year ended March after last month’s earthquake and tsunami hurt sales.

ISUZU
The other Japanese truckmaker in Toyota’s orbit (albeit minority-owned in this instance) reports nothing new on the production front, and its sole bit of official news since last month is a plethora of PDF document links in support of its 2011 fiscal year results. Far more compelling, though, are rumors that Volkswagen seeks to buy into Isuzu to add it to its sphere of influence on global truck production that already includes Germany’s MAN and Sweden’s Scania. The ramifications of that possibility, though, will be discussed in a separate future Kaizen Factor story.

ASTON MARTIN
While Aston Martin’s ties to Toyota are limited to a personal friendship between Toyota head Akio Toyoda and his Aston Martin counterpart Dr. Ulrich Bez, forged over years of competing at the 24 Hours of the Nürburgring (and sharing a garage/pit area at last year’s race), as well as facilitating Aston Martin the Toyota iQ as the basis for the sports car maker’s CO2-lowering gambit, the Cygnet, a heartwarming gesture by Dr. Bez deserves a mention here. In his own words:

“Nobody could have failed to be moved by the recent events in Japan and we at Aston Martin are no exception. After many years presence in the market and closer ties being forged with the Japanese automotive business in recent projects, we have many friends in the region and we wanted to do something to help.

“The Bonhams Aston Martin Auction seems the perfect platform to encourage the extended Aston Martin family to support this cause, so we have decided to auction my Rapide which I have used in my role as Chief Executive to represent Aston Martin at numerous events in both UK and Europe. I hope this superb car will raise a substantial amount to help make a difference.”

Indeed, as Autoblog informs us, Ulrich Bez will donate his personal Aston Martin Rapide shown above, a UK specification, right hand drive model built in late 2009 and bearing chassis number F00039. Its Concours Blue exterior contrasts with an Obsidian Black leather interior with Falcon Grey top-stitching and black carpets offset by walnut veneers. The Bonhams auction house will waive its commission for this particular lot that will be auctioned on Saturday 21 May at Aston Martin’s hometown of Newport Pagnell.

Photo Credits:
Photo 1: Koji Sasahara / Associated Press
Illustration 2: Toyota Global site
Photo 3: Aston Martin / Autoblog

One Millionth Prius sold in the USA!!!

2010 - 2011 Toyota Prius 001Amidst the recalls and drama that plagued Toyota and their #1 selling hybrid icon, they have announced the sale of their 1 Millionth Prius in the United States. This is a huge milestone in the Prius’ 10+ year existence in the US! The Prius has literally become the next “Corolla” as their best selling “hybrid” vehicle in the world. With the future expansion of the Prius line up, Toyota has set the standard for hybrid vehicles. Now the million dollar question is, who bought this lucky Prius and which dealership sold it? Hats off to Toyota for the outstanding accomplishment.

Press Release:

April 06, 2011

Toyota Sells One-Millionth Prius in the U.S.

TORRANCE, Calif., April 5, 2011 – Toyota Motor Sales (TMS), U.S.A., Inc., today announced the one-millionth sale of the Toyota Prius, the world’s first mass-produced hybrid gas-electric vehicle, in the United States. It is the third milestone for Toyota’s hybrid lineup in the last six months that started with the announcement of worldwide Toyota Prius sales topping two million in October 2010 and overall global Toyota hybrid sales passing three million last month.

“Since the Prius went on sale eleven years ago not a year has gone by when it hasn’t been the number one selling hybrid vehicle in the U.S,” said Bob Carter, Toyota Division group vice president and general manager. “Prius has become synonymous with the word hybrid and as we see fuel prices starting to rise again, it has accounted for more than 60 percent of hybrid passenger car sales so far this year. Prius paved the way for hybrids and while it is still the hybrid leader in sales and fuel economy, I’m proud to say that since its introduction, 13 other auto brands have seen the benefits of hybrid technology and joined the hybrid market.”
The third-generation Prius topped the EPA’s list of the Most Fuel Efficient Vehicles for 2011. It has been named the Best Overall Value of the Year for the last nine years in a row by IntelliChoice, and has the highest owner loyalty of any mid-size vehicle for four of the last five years according to R.L. Polk.  More than 97 percent of all Toyota Prii sold since 2000 are still on the road.
Since it was introduced in the U.S. in 2000, Prius, when compared to the average car, has saved American consumers more than an estimated 881 million gallons of gas, $2.19 billion in fuel costs, and 12.4 million tons of CO2 emissions.
In January 2011 at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit, Toyota debuted the Prius v, the first vehicle to be debuted as part of the Prius family marketing strategy. Prius v, which goes on sale in third quarter of 2011, is a mid-size vehicle that provides more than 50 percent additional interior cargo space than the current Prius. In early 2012 Prius will launch two more Prius family members – the Prius c compact hybrid vehicle and the Prius Plug-in Hybrid vehicle.