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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 deaths of the Ford Crown Victoria and the Lincoln Town Car have meant overhauls of three high-profile American fleets: police, taxi and livery car. Just as police fleets are more open to considering other options and a Nissan van is the new face of the NYC taxi, livery car companies are looking at replacements for the Town Car beyond The Blue Oval. Ford, via Lincoln, has made an MKT Town Car (pictured), but an article in the Detroit News claims "it has failed to win over most of the big limousine companies." The upstarts trying to move in include livery and limo editions of the Cadillac XTS, and livery specifications of the Toyota Avalon and Chrysler 300.
Each of those challengers, however, faces challenges. The Town Car was a workhorse, American, rear-wheel-drive sedan with plenty of rear legroom. Cadillac has been in the livery space before but with decontented models that were about selling the brand, not its luxury. It is taking the opposite approach with the XTS, pointing out that its livery edition is "contented in the upper half of the XTS range." Still, the CEO of Michigan's largest livery company says "it's quite a bit smaller than what we're used to," and he also prefers rear-wheel drive.
The Chrysler 300 is rear-wheel drive, and American, which matters to some companies, but Chrysler hasn't yet revealed the livery package for it. The livery Avalon marks Toyota's first time getting into that business in the US, a natural step after having done so well with taxi clients and with the Town Car out of the way. Still, the livery client is a different to taxi buyers, so the Avalon could face other soft-touch hurdles.
According to Toyota, the "i-ROAD takes the company closer to its goal of creating the ultimate range of eco cars." As you're surely aware, that range of eco cars includes the enormously successful Prius family, but this new machine is nothing like the hybrid hatchback. And it's not even a car - Toyota calls the i-ROAD a Personal Mobility Vehicle.
Toyota's i-ROAD Concept, which debuts at this week's Geneva Motor Show, is adorned with just three wheels, meaning it's just as much a motorcycle as it is a car, and the driver and passenger sit in tandem style instead of side-by-side. This arrangement allows for a very thin 850mm width, which is about the same as a large motorcycle. Because the cockpit is enclosed, the occupants don't need helmets, nor are they open to the elements outside.
Also like a traditional two-wheeler, the i-ROAD tilts through the turns and when driving on uneven surfaces. Toyota says its computer-controlled Active Lean technology automatically balances the vehicle with no input from the driver.