Toyota Canada President Stephen Beatty
Toyota Canada President Stephen Beatty. Click image to enlarge

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2010 Toyota Prius

When Toyota showed the first Prius models in 1999, with right-hand drive and unusual shape, many wondered what the company was doing. Toyota Canada’s Managing Director Stephen Beatty was fascinated, however, and enthusiastic.

“The Prius was always to be the hybrid technology leader for Toyota,” he remembers, “and that’s still its purpose.”

The third generation Prius, unveiled at the 2009 North American International Auto Show, continues to surprise. As successive versions of many vehicles typically gain weight, get much bigger, and use more fuel, the third generation Prius is lighter than the outgoing model, more spacious, considerably more powerful, only 15 millimetres longer, and even more fuel efficient. Its coefficient of drag (Cd) is an industry-leading 0.25, and its fuel consumption is an expected 3.8 L/100km combined city/highway (72 mpg). Additionally, the Prius now uses “ecological” plastics that are plant-derived and carbon-neutral

Although early technology adopters are typically interested in the Prius, as are individuals who are drawn to its environmental credentials, Beatty says that old-fashioned “word of mouth” has significantly promoted the vehicle over the years.

“It’s about sustainable mobility,” says Mr. Beatty of the Prius, and Toyota’s global vision, “but it’s also about value.” Numerous safety technologies come standard with the 2010 Prius, including eight airbags to protect occupants in case of an accident, anti-lock brakes and electronic stability control. Also standard is a full range of power equipment and driver/passenger amenities.

Additionally, the 2010 Prius can be purchased with an array of sophisticated technologies like Intelligent Parking Assist (IPA) and a moonroof with solar panels that power a smart air conditioning system. Also available are steering wheel touch controls that provide feedback via the instrument panel display and a choice of four driving modes. There’s even an available Dynamic Radar Cruise Control system that informs a Pre-Collision system that retracts seatbelts and applies the brakes when a crash is unavoidable.

But, says Mr. Beatty, echoing his thoughts of the original Prius, “When you go for a drive; surprise! It’s just a car.”

This is because even though the technology is sophisticated and new, Toyota is investing considerable resources in what it calls the “Human Machine Interface.” The goal is to simplify the ownership experience, says Mr. Beatty.

Concerning the new diesel technology now being introduced by competitors, Mr. Beatty states that hybrid vehicles have a considerable edge in both emissions and fuel economy.

“Even the cleanest diesel can barely make emissions standards in California, and a rise in the price of diesel at the pump quickly negates savings,” he says.

Toyota does have plug-in versions of the Prius scheduled for trials in late 2009, and showed a concept battery-electric vehicle in Detroit (The FT-EV). The company expects to introduce up to 10 new gasoline-electric hyrids by the 2010s, and an urban battery commuter by 2012.

Mr. Beatty pointed out that the fueling infrastructure for hybrids is already in place, and the technology is evolving rapidly. “This is precisely the right time to introduce the new Prius,” he said.

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