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Auto blogMon, 30 Jun 2014 17:59:00 EST
If you were holding off buying a new car in anticipation of the fourth-generation Toyota Prius arriving in 2015, your wait might be a little longer. Company insiders are claiming that production of the bestselling hybrid is being pushed back from spring to possibly as late as December 2015. Toyota is reportedly still making alterations to make sure everything is just right before it unleashes the all-important, efficient hatch on a waiting public.
According to unnamed sources speaking to Automotive News Europe, the main reasons for the delay aren't completely known. It's believed the engineers are still working on making the hybrid powertrain more efficient and improving the new Toyota Global Architecture modular platform. The insiders claim that the final production prototype of the Prius is still under development, and it might be November before it's finalized. From there, it usually takes around 12 months to tool up and for the first car to roll off the assembly line. It would be another year after that before the plug-in variant starts assembly. The national manager of Toyota Product Communications, Michael Kroll, told AutoblogGreen, "As you might expect, we can't comment on future product plans."
Despite the delay, some potential details have already emerged about the new hybrid. A company spokesperson recently told Autoblog via email that Toyota is engineering the next-gen Prius to have smaller, more power-dense electric motors and greater thermal efficiency. The new modular platform is also rumored reduce weight, and the changes could lead to a targeted 10 percent improvement in fuel economy.
The Toyota Prius is undeniably the king of the hybrid market in the United States, with a 39.4 percent market share in 2013. With the next-generation Prius likely to go on sale in 2015, Toyota is trying to build an even more efficient hybrid to keep its control of the market.
Keeping cost down will be one of the major concerns of the new Prius. The next generation will ride on the new, modular Toyota New Global Architecture platform. The lighter underpinnings will improve efficiency and will reduce production costs by allowing for more shared components among vehicles. Toyota will not reveal how many vehicles will use the new platform. But even with the cheaper platform, price will remain a concern. Toyota is still deciding whether all versions of the next Prius will use lithium-ion batteries or whether some models will stick with the heavier nickel-metal hydride batteries to keep cost down.
Of course, the reason most people buy the Prius is because of its great fuel efficiency. Toyota will aim for at least an 8 percent improvement in fuel economy in the next Prius, which would increase it to 58 miles per gallon city and 52 mpg highway.
Toyota as we know it could become a thing of the past. According to Australian site Car Advice, the Japanese brand known for bland cruisers like the Camry and Corolla is preparing to bring two new rear-drive cars to market that would slot above and below the Scion-badged FR-S. This is very, very good news.
Car Advice spoke to the GT86/FR-S' chief engineer, Tatsuya Tada, who claimed, "Akio Toyoda always says to me, Toyota sports car [family] should be three sports car brothers. 86 is in the middle." The oldest "brother" would be the spiritual successor to the Supra, even if it doesn't wear that name. Tada is in charge of that project, while a sub-GT86 project is being headed-up elsewhere.
Tada refused to comment on names (CA specifically mentions MR2 and Celica) for the new small car, but did say that, "Yes it is rear-wheel drive and that's Toyota's strong position - Toyota sports car must be rear-wheel drive." Perhaps the juiciest bit of information obtained from Tada's interview with Car Advice was his hinting that both new sports cars would be joint ventures, like the GT86/FR-S/Subaru BRZ triplets. Tada wouldn't say who Toyota was in bed with on the smaller model, but did mention that the Supra would be a product of the world's largest automaker's partnership with BMW.