Thinking of ditching your gas-guzzler and upgrading to a Toyota Prius? Get in line. Recent reports suggest that new owners may have to wait up to as much as six months before a Prius becomes available.
As gas prices continue to surge and the U.S. economy continues to circle the drain, the fuel-efficient Prius isn't just for granola eaters anymore. Suddenly, those numbers of 48 mpg in the city and 45 mpg on the highway aren't just good for Mother Earth, they're good for the pocketbook, too. According to Consumer Reports (October 2008), hybrid owners can "save more than $4,000 over five years" when compared to a similar gas-powered vehicle.
It's those kind of savings that have made the Toyota Prius one of the best-selling vehicles in the United States over the past few years. So much so, in fact, that Toyota dealerships are repeatedly barren of the hard-to-find vehicle.
Understanding the enormous popularity of the Prius, Toyota has finally announced a solution that will ramp up Prius production. Currently, the bottleneck comes in the form a lone production plant located in Japan. This plant is responsible for manufacturing all Prius cars worldwide. To improve the influx of Prius cars in America, Toyota has announced the opening of new plant in Mississippi. This plant will be devoted only to the production of Toyota Priuses bound for the North American auto market.
A Prius plant close to home not only means more units on the road, it may also mean the introduction of a complete line of Prius vehicles (similar to Toyota's Scion brand). Rumors already have many people convinced that a plug-in version of the Prius will be made available for the 2010 model year. Toyota has also expressed interest in creating various Prius body styles, including a coupe and wagon.
While this is assuredly good news for drivers looking to go green in Toyota's venerable hybrid, it doesn't do much for those who want a Prius right now. The Mississippi plant won't be production-ready until sometime in 2010, meaning the first American-born Prius will likely be the 2010 or 2011 Toyota Prius.
For those who want a Prius now, they might consider buying used. Like all Toyotas, the Prius delivers exceptional longevity and reliability. Otherwise, it's time to call up your local Toyota dealer, put yourself on the waiting list, and tighten your belt for another few months.