Hmmmm, another re-branding effort. I’ve always found that an interesting trend for Japanese car companies. Outside of North America, there is no Acura, for example; everything Honda makes is just a Honda. It looks like Toyota, makers of the world’s best selling hybrid, the Prius, might be spinning off the Prius name into its own brand.
This has been a rumor for quite some time, but recently Toyota made it officially official when they confirmed that there will soon be more Prius models. The announcement came at a Las Vegas gathering of Toyota and Lexus dealers (see, Lexus as separate brand). According to sources, Toyota execs were careful to point out that the future Prius range will not be a full-fledged brand like Lexus or Scion.
The plan is that the upcoming Prius “brand” will be a subset of vehicles within Toyota. At this moment, details are not forthcoming as to just what sort of cars will be in the covered by the Prius sub-head. In November of 2008 there were rumors of a 2+2 coupe version of the Prius, which would be aimed directly at Honda’s forthcoming CRZ hybrid coupe. And there was also the A-BAT Concept pickup truck which was said to be in the pipeline for production, possibly as the truck component of the Prius range.
Toyota has released no official word as to when the new Prius models will be announced or hit showrooms, although all signs point to a 2012 launch date. The company hasn’t announced when the official Prius brand will roll out either, but you would have to think there would be a building ad and PR push increasing up to that projected 2012 roll out.
On the one hand, you’d have to look at this as being a fairly easy move for Toyota to make. The green cache that Prius has, applied to a whole, if small, line of vehicles would bring instant credibility to that new line. It’s something that Toyota could leverage on a number of fronts. As a tactical move, it could offset the not-so-hot CAFE numbers from its full-sized pick-ups. It could also slowly make the word “Prius” synonymous with the word “hybrid” like Kleenex is to facial tissue or Xerox is to photo-static copy.
One thing is for sure, other car makers have underestimated or downplayed Toyota to their own detriment in the past, so you’d be dumb to downplay this move.
Photo from Flickr user Handolio