Hybrid with the Right Mix

Before the decade is out 40 per cent of Honda's sales are likely to be of hybrids.

Published: 01-Jan-2004

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'ĂȘtre - 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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