TOKYO--Toyota Motor may delay the U.S. launch of the wagon-style Prius V, scheduled for late summer, because of the March 11 earthquake.
The vehicle went on sale here May 13 as the Prius Alpha, several weeks later than planned. Toyota pushed back the launch because production at the Tsutsumi plant in Toyota City was shut down by the quake.
"It may have some impact from the earthquake," chief engineer Hiroshi Kayukawa said of the U.S. launch at a Tokyo test-drive event. Toyota is still considering whether to delay, he said.
In Japan, Toyota had 25,000 orders for the Prius Alpha before it went on sale--about eight times the monthly sales target of 3,000 units. The long line means people ordering the hybrid today may have to wait until April 2012 for delivery, Toyota said.
About 7,000 of the orders are for the three-row variant equipped with lithium ion batteries. Toyota had expected to sell only 1,000 of the lithium ion powered
cars a month.
"From the start, we are already behind," spokesman Paul Nolasco said. "Just in sheer numbers, there are already 7,000 orders, and we were planning to take seven months to build that many."
Kayukawa told reporters that Toyota initially would target monthly sales of 2,000 Prius Vs in the United States and 2,000 sales of its sister model, the Prius Plus, in Europe.
The new Prius wagon comes in two configurations: a two-row five-seater equipped with a nickel-metal hydride battery and a three-row seven-seater with a lithium ion power pack.
The United States will get only the two-row version, the Prius V. Europe is expected to receive only the three-row version, the Prius Plus. Japan gets both.
The nickel-metal variant starts at 2.35 million yen, or about $29,000, in Japan, while the lithium ion option begins at about $37,000.
Under Japan's fuel-economy test, which delivers higher mileage readings than the U.S. EPA test, the Prius Alpha gets about 73 mpg, compared with about 84 mpg for the original Prius hatchback.
Both cars have the same electric-gasoline drivetrain and 1.8-liter Atkinson cycle engine.
But one future difference may be equipping the Prius V with four-wheel drive. Said Kayukawa: "That's something we have to think about, but costs will be tight."
(Source: Automotive News)