Hybrid with the Right Mix
When Toyota launched the first petrol-electric hybrid car six years ago, reactions from the rest of the world's motor industry ranged from the sceptical to the derisive.
Here was a car, a boring-looking, sloppily-handling but undeniably worthy family five-seater, that Toyota, Japan's biggest carmaker, had provided with not one but two expensive-to-produce power units. A car that, far from making money, would cost Toyota plenty to get into the marketplace because its price would have to be heavily subsidised. Not least, a car whose main raison d'être - reduced impact on the environment - would appeal most to a tree-hugging minority.
Toyota insisted at the launch that the choice of name, Prius, really was not meant to rhyme with pious - it is pronounced pree-us. Most other car manufacturers, although they had "just in case" hybrid development programmes of their own, sat back to watch it to flop.
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