Toyota Prius: P2C2E

New 2004 Prius has improvements Srinivas Krishnan places in a category called 'process to complicated to explain.'

Published: 10-Nov-2003

Whenever any engineering gee-whiz explains something technical to me, these are my standard responses, usually accompanied by some rigorous nodding of the head at strategic moments. It's another matter that I don't see at all, but at least it makes the other guy happy. Now things get complicated when the engineer speaks only Japanese, and you have an interpreter to whom you have to address these questions, and then wait for a routed response from the other side. So instead of asking any intelligent questions, I simply got into the second generation Toyota Prius and drove it.

Rewind. I was at Toyota's Higashi-Fuji R and D centre/test-track in Japan, along with hundreds of journalists from around the world. We were precision-bombed by Toyota's engineering machine, which exposed us to the cutting edge work taking place there in automotive safety and environment technology. On display was stuff like fuel cell and hybrid vehicles, cars incorporating safety dynamics technology and a host of other interesting (no, really) innovations. While many of them are ready to feature in tomorrow's cars, the new Prius is a futuristic machine that is here, now and in front of me.

When Toyota launched the first Prius in 1997, it was the world's first mass-produced hybrid vehicle. Since then, it has sold over 1,20,000 units all over the globe (in fact, Motoring had driven the car back in 1999). And at the New York Auto Show held early this year, Toyota's president, Fujio Cho, unveiled the second generation Prius. When it went on sale in Japan this September, Toyota thought they would sell about 3,000 units, but contrary to expectations, they have received firm orders for over 17,000 cars. And this is just the beginning.

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