2015 Toyota Prius LiftbackEnlarge Photo
In three generations and over a decade on sale, the Toyota Prius hybrid has become a common sight on U.S. roads, and has spurred the launch of numerous other hybrid models.
Yet many people's views of the Prius haven't changed for the better.
"Pushback" from skeptical non-hybrid owners was not uncommon in the Prius' early years and, according to a new report from the Chicago Tribune (subscription required) it's alive and well today.
Plenty of drivers continue to mock the Prius, continuing to assume that people drive them only for self aggrandizement or to advertise their political views, associating the Prius with liberals just as gargantuan SUVs and pickup trucks are often associated with conservatives.
2012, 2013, and 2014 Toyota PriusEnlarge Photo
It's sometimes referred to as "Prius repellent."
One Prius driver interviewed by the paper said he has never been tailgated as much as he has been with the hybrid--no matter how fast he drives.
The Prius' near-silent powertrain is still used to indict the driver's masculinity as well.
Responding to one owner who praised his Prius' quiet acceleration, a Twitter user chimed in that someone should "buy him a skirt."
The persistence of these stereotypes is connected to a larger disinterest in hybrids on the part of car buyers, many of whom still distrust the technology.
In a recent survey of car owners, University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute researchers Michael Sivak and Brandon Schoettle found that 46 percent of non-hybrid owners would not consider buying one under any circumstances.
2013 Toyota PriusEnlarge Photo
Despite the growth of the hybrid segment, the general public still associates the word "hybrid" with "Prius." After all, the model still accounts for at least half of hybrid sales.
There are also more alternatives available--including conventional powertrains with downsized turbocharged engines--that have attracted buyers' attention, allowing them to save some fuel while driving a "normal" car.
The new fourth-generation Prius is set to launch as a 2016 model, with some updates meant to broaden its appeal, but buyers will likely have to expect some pushback nonetheless.