The Toyota Prius is not only the quintessential hybrid-electric vehicle, but the automaker's third best-selling car line in the United States.
Last year, the redesigned 2010 Prius launched with the ad tagline, "Harmony between man, nature, and machine."
Tell that to the McCarthy family of Homewood, California.
About 3:30 am on August 7, they were woken by the honking horn of their nine-year-old Toyota Prius hybrid, which they had parked outside their cabin on the west shore of Lake Tahoe.
Inside the car was a large black bear, grunting audibly.
Not entirely sure how to handle the situation, Brian McCarthy and his wife Cece called the local sheriff's department. But by the time they got off the phone, the Prius had vanished.
2001 Toyota Prius interior
It had rolled down the McCarthys' steep driveway, across the street, banked off some boulders, and finally stopped up against the neighbor's deck, a distance of as much as 80 feet.
By the time the family found their Prius, the driver's door was open and its ursine occupant had vanished into the woods. The direction-selector "gear shift" lever had been ripped completely out of the dashboard, McCarthy said.
The car had to be totaled due to extensive interior damage--McCarthy said "every recognizable piece of the interior" had been ripped out--although it was undamaged on the outside.
The family remains baffled as to why the bear targeted their car and how it got inside. There was no food inside, the usual reason bears enter cars.
(Bears are powerful enough, by the way, to peel open metal car doors in search of food--as any experienced park ranger will tell you.)
2011 Nissan Leaf BearHug
Perhaps the bear mistook the Prius hybrid for a 2011 Nissan Leaf electric car? That's the one whose very popular TV ad shows a polar bear hugging the startled owner, presumably thanking him for his green consciousness.
The Lake Tahoe bear, of course, did not have the ignition key required to power up the Prius. Even if it had known how to operate the gear selector, it couldn't have taken the car on a proper test drive.
For that, there's a proper dealership--Cardinaleway Toyota--in nearby South Lake Tahoe, California.