The Hybrid that Started it All
released on November 2008
Responding to concerns about the environment, Toyota set itself an exceptionally high goal for its 21st century car project in the spring of 1993 — to create a car that would have more than twice the fuel economy of cars in the same class, reduce CO2 emissions, seat five adults and provide maximum cabin space in a compact design. After repeatedly exploring ways to achieve this goal, Toyota decided to adopt a combustion engine and electric motor hybrid system in June 1995.
A mere two years later in October 1997, Toyota launched the world's first mass-produced hybrid passenger car, the Prius. With its name derived from the Latin for "prior to," the first-generation Prius was conceived as a predecessor to future vehicles, incorporating innovative hybrid technology capable of being used with gasoline as well as other fuels, such as diesel, biofuel or hydrogen fuel cells.
"The Prius is Toyota's response to the challenge of change," former Toyota Motor Corporation President Hiroshi Okuda said at the vehicle's media unveiling. "With the launch of the Prius and its successors, Toyota is determined to extend the horizons of technological innovation, meet society's needs and take the lead in the race to realize the car that encapsulates the dreams and issues of the next century."
When it came to the development of the second-generation Prius, Toyota sought to solidify its image as an eco-conscious manufacturer of hybrid vehicles by creating a car that would have broad appeal. To that end, the vehicle was required to not only have improved environmental performance, but also incorporate additional features, such as faster acceleration and better mileage.
"It would be difficult to create new appeal by simply improving the first-generation vehicle," said Concept Planner Satoshi Ogiso of the Product Development Group. "We completely abandoned the original concept of the Prius and started with a blank slate to create a new one. Our concern was whether we would be able to create a second-generation vehicle that could compare to the epoch-making first-generation one."
Launched in September 2003, the second-generation Prius would go on to win numerous awards around the world, including the Good Design Award 2003, the 2003-2004 North American Car of the Year and 2005 European Car of the Year. Today, the Prius is sold in 44 countries and regions, helping to reduce global CO2 emissions and bring eco-friendly driving into the mainstream.
With the third-generation Prius set for release in 2009, Toyota hoped to build upon the successful legacy of its innovative hybrid vehicle and move closer towards achieving its goal of sustainable mobility.