2012 Toyota Prius Plug-In Hybrid, production version road test, San Diego, CA, Jan 2012
For the past few years, every time an automaker has launched a new plug-in hybrid or electric car, it’s been to a fanfare of sorts.
But while Nissan, General Motors and Fisker have attracted the spotlight as more and more customers step up for their new cars, Press coverage of Toyota’s 2012 Prius Plug-in Hybrid has been small.
Which leads us to the inevitable question: Is it the invisible plug-in car?
Just another Prius
In the past year, Toyota has launched three additional models to the Prius family: the 2012 Prius V Wagon, 2012 Prius C subcompact, and 2012 Prius Plug-in Hybrid.
Because of their unique designs, both the Prius V wagon and Prius C subcompact can’t be mistaken for the original Prius liftback.
Unless you’re a Prius geek however, the 2012 Prius Plug-in Hybrid looks almost identical to a 2012 Prius liftback, especially from a distance.
Unlike the 2012 Nissan Leaf and 2012 Chevrolet Volt then, it blends into the background particularly well, only breaking its disguise when parked at a charging station.
It isn’t Toyota’s green savior
There’s another, more fundamental reason we think Toyota hasn’t gone crazy over advertising the Prius Plug-in Hybrid, one that is fairly simple to understand:
The 2012 Toyota Prius Plug-in Hybrid isn’t Toyota’s halo car.
For Nissan and General Motors, the 2012 Leaf and 2012 Volt are the respective halo cars for each company, becoming the public face of each firm’s green car devision.
For Toyota however, the entire Prius family is considered its halo brand, with the Prius Plug-in Hybrid representing a small piece of a much larger green fleet offering.
Or, if you prefer, the Prius Plug-in Hybrid is a niche vehicle within a niche vehicle brand.
Toyota already has a customer base
Unlike Nissan and Chevrolet, Toyota already has a loyal base of Toyota Prius hybrid customers around the world, many of which will soon be looking to find a replacement car for their Prius hybrids.
For many, the Prius Plug-in Hybrid offers brand loyalty and familiarity while giving them the next logical step towards an all-electric vehicle.
Because of that, we predict many early 2012 Toyota Prius Plug-in Hybrid owners will be existing Prius owners trading in their cars for the plug-in hybrid.
Invisible is okay
Because of its limited, 15- 6 mile electric-only/ 11-mile blended mode range, the 2012 Toyota Prius Plug-in Hybrid might not be suitable for everyone’s needs, and certainly won't compete with the Chevy Volt or Nissan Leaf when it comes to gaining wannabe plug-in drivers.
But If you want to avoid the attention that owners of the 2012 Chevrolet Volt, 2012 Nissan Leaf and 2012 Mitsubishi i regularly get from other motorists, the 2012 Toyota Prius Plug-in Hybrid is your ticket to incognito electric driving.
As little as five years ago, the humble Toyota Prius created a stir wherever it went.
Nowadays, Priuses are so common even the Prius Plug-in Hybrid fails to get attention.
Isn’t that level of normality and invisibility what we all wanted anyway?