Today’s GM-Volt post will be a hybrid-hybrid article. What’s that, you ask? Rather than re-phrase a report from Japan about the Prius c by The Truth About Cars, I’ll paste it in below my brief.

TTAC has been known to upset people, but that’s its contrarian schtick, and its Managing Editor Bertel Schmitt is sticking to it.


2012 Plug-In Prius.

And for your more plain vanilla, just-the-facts reading pleasure, I’ll start with the latest about another Prius, the Plug-in. Both are due in March ( limited availability for PIP ).

PHV/PIP

Toyota has upped its fuel-efficiency projection for its Plug-in Hybrid Vehicle (PHV), according to Bloomberg, which reports the automaker expects to top the Volt in its U.S. Environmental Protection Agency fuel economy rating.

Toyota’s U.S. Group Vice President Bob Carter, said the Plug-In Prius (AKA PIP) should manage 50 mpg in hybrid mode for combined city/ highway mileage, and earn 95 MPGe assuming its 4.4-kwh lithium-ion battery is recharged frequently.

“It’s still an estimate, but we are confident it’s going to be 95,” Carter said of Toyota's projection Tuesday. The EPA rating will be known “in a couple weeks,” he said.

In comparison, the extended-range electric Volt can go 25-50-plus miles on a charge, is rated at 37 mpg combined, and 94 MPGe.

Toyota's news represents an increase from a September estimate of 49/87. Satoshi Ogiso, chief engineer for Toyota’s Prius models, said the higher estimate follows further battery pack testing and additional newly developed “control programs.”

But before Prius fans get too excited, GM Spokesman Rob Peterson said driving conditions further separate the PIP from the Volt.

“The big difference here is in real-world conditions,” Peterson told Bloomberg. “The Volt’s ability to go all-electric at all speeds for 25 to 50 miles allows most drivers to commute on electricity only.”

The PIP has an electric-only mode top speed of 62 mph compared to the Volt’s top all-electric speed of 100 mph.



 

“At any point in time that a Prius driver exceeds 62 mph, their gas engine goes on,” Peterson said.

What's more on average Volt drivers are filling their gas tanks but once a month, Peterson said.

For the PIP's first year, Toyota aims to sell 15,000, compared to 45,000 year-two Volts to U.S. customers.

But as you’ve also no doubt noticed, Toyota has a huge head start in gas-electric vehicles, and dominates in the hybrid market segment, routinely occupying top billing for U.S. hybrid sales with its Prius line. The regular Prius, now called the third-generation “Liftback” has loomed largest taking over half of the limited hybrid car market.

Counting Prius v sales, the 2011 year-end total for the Prius line was 136,463 units sold compared to the next in line, Lexus (another Toyota brand) CT 200h, which sold 14,381 in 2011.

Toyota has chosen to lump all Prius sales numbers into one category, and it is projecting all four Prius models combined to account for 220,000 U.S. sales in 2012.

The company is now demoted to third overall in global sales, however, following disastrous effects from the March earthquake and tsunami.

GM has regained this spot, followed by Volkswagen, with Toyota following.

 

Toyota Drowns In Orders For Game Changing Engineering Feat Prius C

By Bertel Schmitt

Note: TTAC is one of our sister publications. Bertel spends his time covering the auto industry in China and Japan, not to mention Europe and the U.S., and previously worked over 30 years at a high level for Volkswagen.

When I called Toyota’s new Aqua / Prius c affordable compact hybrid first a “ gamechanger ,” then an “ engineering feat ,” this attracted the attention of self-styled jargon vigilantes. They demanded equal platitudes to be bestowed on domestic models. In the meantime, the Japanese game changer threatens to change Toyota’s best laid plans: It sells ten times better than expected.



 

Someone at Toyota told The Nikkei last week that the company “received about 120,000 orders for its new Aqua compact hybrid between its Dec. 26 release and Jan. 31, 10 times the monthly sales target of 12,000 vehicles.” Toyota markets the car as the Aqua in Japan. In the U.S. and other markets, it will be called Prius c.

These orders go on an already big pile. When the car was formally launched on Dec. 26 in Tokyo, Toyota “had received orders for 60,000 Aqua hybrid cars ahead of its launch,” says the Wall Street Journal . At that time, the waiting period for the car after an order was placed was said to be four months.



 

The onslaught of orders puts Toyota in a quandary. Not only have they planned for 12,000 units a month, these plans are also hard to, well, change. As Prius c Project Manager, Masahiko Yanagihara, had patiently explained to this reporter , the Aqua/Prius c is being built in the Iwate plant of subsidiary Kanto Auto Works in Kanegasaki. This plant has a maximum capacity of 30,000 units a month, if Toyota pulls out all the stops and works overtime. However, the plant also makes “other cars, such as the Ractis, Belta, Blade etc.” Until Toyota finds ways to expand its production capacity, the car will remain in short supply.

This shortage will only be exacerbated when the car is launched worldwide this year, while production remains back in Japan. Dubbed as “the world’s most fuel efficient hybrid car,” the Prius c is slated for sale in 50 countries , including the U.S. In Europe, Toyota will release a new small hybrid based on the Yaris compact. It will use the same hybrid system as the Aqua. Timing for the overseas launch has not been released. In the U.S., the Prius c is said to have a starting price of around $19,000. A look at gasoline prices and world news says that an affordable 53 mpg (EPA, city) car could not have come at a better time. If there would not be that bottleneck called Iwate. And the Yen.



 

Toyota has been hesitant in establishing hybrid production outside of Japan. The numbers seem to back this up. The Prius is Japan’s best selling car. This year, the title could go to the Aqua/Prius c. Outside of Japan, hybrids are still a niche play. The market share of hybrids in the U.S. was 2.11 percent in 2011, down from 2.78 percent in 2009. The Prius c is the little car that could change that.

Bloomberg
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