"We put everything into the development of this car…"

released on September 2003

Takeshi Uchiyamada,
Chief Engineer of first generation Prius 1

Set up in 1993, the "G-21" project ("G" for "global" and "21" for the "21st century") identified the environment and conservation of resources as the issues that most needed addressing by automakers at the beginning of the new century. The fear was that without crucial technological breakthroughs, the automobile would have no future.

The team's goal was an environmental car without sacrificing driving comfort — easily seating four adults, fully equipped with power features and at least a 50% boost in fuel economy.

However, when the prototype was finished, then-Executive Vice President Akihiro Wada and the heads of the technical divisions were not satisfied. "The concept is all right," they said. "But a 50% increase in fuel economy is not enough. Your goals for the car of the 21st century are too low. If that's the best you can do, the Project should be canceled."

"The only way past this limiting factor was the hybrid car," said Chief Engineer Takeshi Uchiyamada. "So we decided to push ahead with the commercialization of the hybrid." This was no easy task. Toyota had no experience with the needed technology and yet was determined to develop everything in-house.

Development team

Turning this idea into a commercially viable vehicle required great investments in time and labor. "We put sweat and blood into its design and production to get enviable quality," said Hidetoshi Kusumi from Electrical & Electronics Production Engineering Division. Creativity, challenge and courage2, helped Toyota to move forward, override high targets and actualize unproven technologies.

Tokyo Motor Show 1997

The "all-out efforts" were a success, and in October 1997 Toyota introduced the Prius, the world's first mass-produced hybrid car at the Toyota Motor Show. At this media unveiling, Toyota Motor Corporation's (TMC) then-President, Hiroshi Okuda set the tone: "Prius is Toyota's response to the challenge of change . . . 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."

  1. Takeshi Uchiyamada is now Senior Managing Director and Chief Officer of the Vehicle Engineering
  2. Creativity, challenge and courage are the 3Cs for Innovation.