Despite battery shortages, the new stretched Prius will be in showrooms this fall, as scheduled. The new car does not have third-row seating, though the European Prius Plus will as it gains space by using lithium-ion batteries, plus saving weight.
The big problem with this car—er, wagon, as the EPA will classify it—is that it’s still only a five-passenger car, like the present Prius though with better legroom and more cargo space.
So why isn’t the U.S. getting the seven-seat model? With 25,000 orders for the new cars already in hand, Toyota probably feels it made a good decision. But many buyers would kill for the third-row seating. See, for example, the comments (scroll down) on this story.
As a guess, it’s probably because Toyota can’t produce enough lithium-ion batteries (the Prius has used nickel-metal-hydride batteries since 1997) to fulfill U.S. market needs. And the appeal of much greater (by 50 percent) cargo space over the present car will suck in more than a few buyers.
Here’s how Autoblog explained the battery mess:
Despite the production problems, Toyota still launched the larger Prius variant in Tokyo. But the lack of batteries means that the automaker can only build 1,000 of the three-row models with the lithium ion battery pack per month, and another 2,000 models with the nickel-metal hydride battery pack. That doesn’t quite jive [sic] with the automaker’s 18,000 orders for the nickel-metal hydride-equipped five-seater or the 7,000 orders for the pricier three-row model. And that’s just the orders for the up-sized Prius in Japan. The automaker intends to sell about 2,000 units per month each in North America and Europe as well.
Of course, Toyota is doing everything it can to get sales back on track after the quake. But it’s now got three different Prius models—one each for Japan, Europe, and the U.S.—two different battery packs, too many orders with too little production capacity, and a most confusing market split.
That doesn’t bode well for this car. In addition, the Prius V gets 42 mpg city/38 highway, while the standard 2011 car gets 51/48.
Do you think the new Prius V wagon will be a success in the U.S.? Why, or why not?