The Toyota Prius once defined the entire “green car” category, but in recent years sales have slumped as competitors from just about every brand have made headway. While the Prius remains the best selling hybrid on the market, Automotive News reports that Toyota is preparing a new marketing campaign ahead of the launch of the 2016 Prius, which could achieve as much as 60 MPG with an “Eco” variant.
U.S. sales of the Prius have fallen 12% so far this year as electric and plug-in hybrid sales continue to grow, and more efficient combustion engines close the gap with the Prius. Even with the expanded lineup including the compact Prius C and crossover-esque Prius V, Tesla seems to have usurped Toyota as the cutting edge “green” brand. To counter this, Toyota is putting together a new ad campaign starring fictional and actual Prius owners who have been with the brand for a decade or more.
“We do want to reach the people who’ve owned a Prius and remind them of the experience they’ve had with the car to convince them to buy another one,” Prius marketing manage Erica Gartsbeyn told Automotive News. “But we also want to talk to people who never considered a hybrid in the past to educate them so they understand that driving a hybrid is just like driving any other car.”
This campaign is likely to go through the launch of an all-new 2016 Toyota Prius, which is poised to debut sometime next year despite a six month delay. Initial estimates put the 2016 Prius at 55 MPG for the standard model with nickel-hydride batteries, though Toyota is reportedly working on a 60 MPG “Eco” model with lithium-ion batteries instead. Several dealers who saw early versions of the new production model called it more sporty and more streamlined, and may appeal to a wider audience who may not have considered a Prius. New features like all-wheel drive and wireless battery charging for the Prius Plug-in up the ante on the safety and tech front, but the Prius remains one of the most traded-in cars for the Tesla Model S.
Following the launch of the 2016 Prius, the C and V models will also be updated, and the lineup could add additional models to “add excitement” to the lineup. Dare I hope for a hybrid performance car from the Prius sub-brand? Maybe, though that alone won’t help Toyota overcome a wave of increasingly efficient or even gasless competitors.
The Prius isn’t going anywhere anytime soon, but the pressure is on Toyota to stay on top with the next-generation of the class-leading hybrid, and they are feeling it.