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Toyota Prius (First Generation)

17810121371

Comments

  • Of the eight Prius in your regional office, please look at the stickers on the two which have cruise control and navigation and tell us what the ordering codes and MSRPs are for those two options.
  • gckorngckorn Posts: 45
    Edmunds is selling $150 certificates good towards the purchase of any new Toyota. The certificate costs $50, so the net savings is $100.

    I ordered a certificate and it came by regular mail within 1 week. It is clearly a bearer certificate (meaning anyone can use it).

    Bottom line: It's a free $100.
  • gckorngckorn Posts: 45
    I just posted terms of the $150 certificate on Yahoo. Here is the post:Edmunds is selling $150 certificates good towards
    the purchase of any new Toyota. The certificate
    costs $50, so the net savings is $100.

    I ordered a certificate and it came by regular
    mail within 1 week. It is clearly a bearer
    certificate (meaning anyone can use it).

    Bottom line: It's a free $100.
  • cliffy1cliffy1 Posts: 3,581
    they are real but they are running out of them. In fact, it is my understanding that they are out of them for the Washington/Baltimore region. These things are regionally sensitive and only a certain number were printed for each media market area.
  • gckorngckorn Posts: 45
    8/4/00 Knight-Ridder Trib. Bus. News - KRTBN (Pg. Unavail. Online) 2000 WL 24911000

    KRTBN Knight-Ridder Tribune Business News: Fort Worth Star-Telegram - Texas

    Copyright (C) 2000 KRTBN Knight Ridder Tribune Business News; Source: World Reporter (TM)

    Friday, August 4, 2000

    Toyota Shows Off Its New Fuel-Efficient, Hybrid Sedan in the Dallas Area

    Bob Cox

    DALLAS--It's billed as the commuter's solution to high fuel costs and air pollution.

    With an electric motor as its primary power source, augmented by a small 1.5-liter, four-cylinder gasoline engine, Toyota's Prius gets an
    estimated 52 miles per gallon of gas in city driving conditions and 48 on the highway.

    Toyota showed off the new fuel-efficient, hybrid sedan in Fort Worth-Dallas for the first time yesterday. Company representatives said the car is tailor-made for urban driving conditions.

    The Toyota Hybrid System, which powers the Prius, is certified as a Super Low Emission Vehicle and exceeds strict pollution requirements that California will put into effect in 2004.

    Honda has already hit the U.S. market with its own highly economical hybrid-powered car, the Insight. But the Prius differs from it -- and
    hybrids planned by the Big Three U.S. automakers -- in one significant respect.

    The Prius is primarily an electric-powered car, one that uses the gasoline engine only to provide additional power. Other hybrids get their primary boost from the gasoline engine and reinforcement from the electric motor.

    "It works best at lower speeds in the city and not as well in highway driving," said Craig Marckwardt, a representative of Gulf States Toyota, an independent distributor for Toyota products in Texas. In a test drive on Dallas streets and Interstate 35, the Prius had plenty of acceleration and power, handled nimbly and stopped on a dime with its power-assisted front brakes.

    For the most part, the Prius felt like any other small car. The only exception was at low speeds, below 30 mph, when the driver asked for a sudden burst of acceleration. A few moments passed before the gasoline engine could boost the power. But at higher freeway speeds, between 30 and 60 mph, acceleration response was more than adequate.

    Sophisticated electronic systems -- "it's software everywhere," Marckwardt said -- monitor and control the Prius powertrain system.

    At low speeds, and with the air conditioning switched off, the car is powered by the 30-kilowatt electric motor alone. Once the Prius reaches 10 mph, the gasoline engine kicks in and an engine-management mechanism determines what proportion of gasoline and electric power the throttle requires. The engine automatically shuts off when the vehicle is at a standstill to reduce energy loss.

    The electric motor runs off sealed nickel-metal hydride batteries, which are continually recharged during the Prius operation. The gasoline engine automatically powers a generator as needed, and kinetic energy, from braking and deceleration, is regenerated into electrical energy and funneled back to the batteries.

    A strong air-conditioning system cools the Prius. But because the engine, which is automatically controlled, is required to run the air
    conditioning, the Prius fuel economy suffers a bit during the summer months.

    Toyota is putting a five-year, 100,000-mile warranty on the Toyota Hybrid System, with a 60,000-mile warranty on the gasoline engine. The
    company will also provide free roadside assistance to Prius buyers should they become stranded.

    Right now the Prius comes in just one model, a four-door sedan, with four available colors. The manufacturer's suggested retail price is $19,995 plus freight.

    Marckwardt said dealers can charge more or less, but added that Toyota has tried to discourage them from adding premiums to the MSRP as often happens with popular new models that are in short supply.

    But consumers can't run down to a local Toyota dealer and buy one. In fact, Toyota dealers have to qualify even to sell the Prius, Marckwardt
    said, by sending their top mechanics, service managers and salesmen to special training sessions.

    Once the requirements are met, they will receive a demonstration Prius to let customers drive.

    Marckwardt said all orders have to be placed through the Toyota Web site (www.Toyota.com/prius). A dealer will then work out the terms of the sale, including the price and delivery schedule.

    Toyota is shipping only 1,000 a month for the entire U.S. market, and buyers placing orders now will probably have to wait about 90 days to
    get their car.

    ---- INDEX REFERENCES ----

    COMPANY (TICKER): Toyota Motor Corp.; Toyota Motor Corp. (Ads) (J.TYM TM)
  • mvaldivimvaldivi Posts: 24
    ...beginning. Toyota's partner in Japan, Hino trucks, is already working on a hybrid diesel-engine (http://www.hino.co.jp/mono/tech/hntech2_e.html). If the Prius is a success here, i'm sure Toyota will consider selling the Tundra and the LC with this technology. This would create havoc on the American truck makers...I hope they're also working on a similar technology. Good luck everyone!
  • gckorngckorn Posts: 45
    8/3/00 Knight-Ridder Trib. Bus. News - KRTBN (Pg. Unavail. Online) 2000 WL 24910528

    KRTBN Knight-Ridder Tribune Business News: The Indianapolis Star and News - Indiana

    Thursday, August 3, 2000

    GM Says It Will Build Hybrid Engine, Boost Mileage in Its Full-Size Trucks
    Ted Evanoff

    PONTIAC, Mich.--After making a ton of money selling gas-guzzling trucks in the 1990s, Detroit automakers are gearing up models that promise far better fuel economy.

    General Motors Corp. joined the environmental parade Wednesday, saying its Chevrolet Silverado full-size pickup will have an electric hybrid
    power plant available as an option in 2005.

    The hybrid unites an electric motor and eight-cylinder gasoline engine and would go about 21 miles on a gallon of gasoline. That's 17 percent
    farther than the current 18 miles-per-gallon pickup. Aerodynamic styling and lighter parts could boost the hybrid's mileage another 5 percent to 10 percent.

    Detroit's automakers fought hard throughout the 1990s to keep Washington from mandating better mileage for trucks. No wonder: The bulk of the Big Three's $70 billion in global profits back then came from full-size pickups and sport-utility vehicles. With Japanese competitors
    now unveiling high-mileage sedans, and Washington appearing serious about truck fuel economy, Detroit is making a lot of colorful boasts
    about improving truck mileage without a push by the government.

    The effort could pay off for Indiana, where auto parts makers in Anderson, Indianapolis and Kokomo are busy developing hybrid components.

    Delphi Automotive Systems engineers in Kokomo have a hand in the hybrid system, though the big winner -- if the hybrid sells -- could be Delco Remy International, based in Anderson. Delco Remy will make the electric motor for the GM hybrid trucks near Munich, Germany, at a joint venture plant with German auto parts maker Continental AG.

    Not only could motor production help stabilize Delco Remy financially, but motor assembly could shift to Indiana, industry analysts say, if the
    hybrid ever reaches high-volume production.

    The Anderson area would be a likely place for a U.S. motor plant because GM assembles Silverados near Fort Wayne. Also, Indiana is reasonably close for delivery trucks going to other Silverado plants in Canada and Michigan.

    "The key number is 30,000 to 40,000 units. If GM sells fewer Silverados with those hybrids, it's talking about it might have to end up subsidizing the cost. Anything above that number, it's getting the kind of economies scale where it can start making money," said Michael Robinet, managing director of CSM Worldwide of Northville, Mich., which forecasts vehicle production for auto parts suppliers.

    GM is the first automaker to make a hybrid available for a high-volume truck. GM's Allison Transmission Division in Indianapolis also is
    developing a hybrid city bus for sale worldwide.

    GM officials declined to talk about hybrid production volumes or prices Wednesday, although they were happy to boast about the technology
    after being beaten to the microphone by rival Ford Motor Co. Last week, Ford chief executive Jacques Nasser promised Ford would boost the
    mileage of all its cars and trucks by an overall average of 25 percent by 2005.

    Much of the increase rests with the untried Ford Escape, a compact and lightweight sport-utility vehicle that will appear by 2003. About a quarter of them will have optional 40-mpg hybrid systems. Ford showed off a version of the new truck to the media Tuesday.

    GM executives summoned reporters to the company's truck engineering center in Pontiac to announce the hybrid Silverado at a hastily assembled news conference.

    Obviously irked by Nasser's speech, which honed Ford's already green image with environmentalists, GM Vice Chairman Harry Pearce chided Ford.

    "GM leads Ford today in truck fuel economy and will still be the leader in five years, or for that matter, in 10 years or in 15 years. "End of story," boasted Pearce, a former trial lawyer whose duties include overseeing advanced technology and public relations for GM.

    Ford spokeswoman Sara Tatchio shrugged off Pearce's claim of GM having better fuel efficiency.

    "We don't want to get into any kind of back-and-forth thing with them," Tatchio said, adding better fuel economy is "what we think customers want and demand. Ford does want to be a different kind of company. We take safety and the environment very seriously."

    Detroit automakers have been developing hybrid technology for more than a decade and are just now ready to commit to production models, so
    industry analysts sensed some theatrics in Pearce's and Nasser's remarks.

    "I think a lot of what they have to say is mainly political," Robinet said. "I can't help but notice we're only a couple of months from the
    November elections."

    Under federal rules, automakers currently must average 20.7 miles per gallon on all their truck models. Because the big pickups and SUVs do no
    better than 18 mpg, manufacturers have gotten around the rules in a variety of ways.

    They've begun to build cars that look like trucks and are classified as trucks for mileage standards -- such as DaimlerChrysler's PT
    Cruiser.

    Or they've built trucks so large they are outside the fuel economy mandates required on passenger vehicles. Ford's jumbo Excursion, which appeared this year as the largest SUV on the highway, is such a vehicle.

    In the Silverado hybrid, the V8 turns off each time the vehicle stops at a traffic light or creeps slowly in traffic. Then the electric motor
    kicks in. Friction produced by braking recharges the motor's battery.

    Toyota Motor Co. and Honda Motor Co. each have hybrid-powered sedans -- the Toyota Prius debuts this fall and the Honda Insight is in dealer
    showrooms now. Those models rely on electric motors 80 percent of the time and subsequently obtain 50 to 70 mpg.

    GM's Silverado hybrid would rely on the electric motor 20 percent of the time, analysts estimated.

    Delco Remy chief engineer Bill Wylam said electric propulsion systems are in development that will carry more of the burden of powering
    vehicles. These would allow for the use of smaller gas or diesel engines and consequently improve fuel economy.

    "We are very excited about the potential represented in these programs with our partners and General Motors," Wylam said.

    GM's is the world's largest automaker, and its best-selling vehicles are the Silverado and its twin, the GMC Sierra. GM sold 852,000 of the
    big trucks last year, along with another 600,000 full-size sport-utilities that use the same engines, transmissions and chassis.

    ---- INDEX REFERENCES ----

    COMPANY (TICKER): General Motors Corp. (GM)
  • allphinallphin Posts: 1
    I just took my second test drive. I have a 6/29 order confirmation, but have heard nothing yet. My very friendly dealer let me see all his Prius stuff including the guide to salesmen, the owners manual, the service schedule, and the mechanics manual called:

    Prius New Car Features, May, 2000, Pub # NCF 182U which covers all the features, including, cruise control and GPS. Incidentally, the Prius has 2 motor-generators, which was news to me. It also covers the planetary drive in some detail and shows the valve timing for the Atkinson-cycle engine at various power demands.

    The salesmen's guide targets people 40 - 52 years old, if I remember correctly. I should cancel because I am 66.
  • Has anyone here ordered one? Just a curious question, because I am a CA dealer with a waiting list 19 people (orders) long, but that doesn't matter because we all get every car ordered -- it's just a matter of time til they get built.

    What, if you have ordered a car, are you paying for them? I am taking orders right now for *under* window sticker (no car til late November, early December)... what's the going rate for these in other regions??

    -Dianne
    dianne@earthlink.net
  • Does anyone have any insight on the effects of what a two way radio (amateur radio) will have on the Prius. Toyota said it cannot be installed, but will not say why?
  • I ordered my car 6/30 and was told I'd have delivery mid-August. Now the dealer has no idea when I'll have the car though I do have one reserved.
    Needless to say I'm a bit frustrated. I wish Toyota had a better handle on when these cars will be delivered. I like to give Toyota the benefit of the doubt however, hoping they're expediting delivery.
  • I think that at a production cost loss of $7000 a car (and that includes the no-cost maintainance for 36 months), Toyota isn't hurrying to lose $7000 a copy. They are tempering the demand themselves.
  • gckorngckorn Posts: 45
    I ordered on 6/29 and confirmed on 6/30. Delivery is may be in late August per my place in line. I paid MSRP. Less than that was not an option.
  • knieserknieser Posts: 5
    I am confused. I thought the price was negotiated when the Prius was delivered? That is my situation. Maybe because I have a trade-in and the delivery date is unknown...
  • tollhouse,

    I called the League on Friday to get a contact in Japan but got no real info. They said they'd try to find a contact and E-Mail me the info. I'm not holding my breath.
    In the meantime, what happens if a state cop with a 150 watt transmitter pulls up beside a Prius and keys the mic?
    Can't wait till my Prius comes in to see what happens...
    Bill Powell (WB1GOT)
  • Bill WB1GOT: Thanks for you input, will be looking for the response you get from Japan, if any! You bring up a good point about the state cop or anyone else transmitting next to the Prius. Think I'll bring that up to the dealer. Are you planning to install a radio in the car?
    73, Al W6JNU
  • Al,
    Since I have recently "inherited" a 75 mile RT commute, I'll need something to do while sitting in stalled traffic. :-)
    I am considering a 25-60 watt 2M/440 rig and, who knows, something on low bands although the Prius is going to look REAL funny with a "bugcatcher" on the back!
    I can assume that since the HCU is described as using "switching" transistors to "control" the 3 phase motor, that there is going to be a LOT of hash but I just can't see how a puny VHF signal is going to interfere with 285V control signals.
    I'll be sure to spread any info I get to all 3 groups I'm active in.
    Bill - WB1GOT
  • gckorngckorn Posts: 45
    8/7/00 PR Newswire 07:43:00
    PR Newswire
    Copyright (c) 2000, PR Newswire

    Monday, August 7, 2000

    Steel is Material of Choice for Hybrid Electric Vehicles (HEVs), Reports American Iron and Steel Institute

    Affordable, Efficient Steel Structures Hasten
    Breakthrough Vehicles' Availability

    Toyota Prius will Debut This Summer; Ford Escape SUV Due in 2003; Others to Follow

    TRAVERSE CITY, Mich., Aug. 7 /PRNewswire/ -- As the global automotive industry launches an all-out effort to increase fuel economy and reduce tail-pipe emissions by using hybrid gasoline/electric engines, it is relying on a
    dependable ally -- the steel industry. Vehicle manufacturers will use safe, affordable, fully recyclable steel to build a number of hybrid electric vehicles (HEVs) that will go on the market over the next several years, reports
    American Iron and Steel Institute.

    Ford has announced that beginning in 2003, it will build a high-volume hybrid electric version of its family-sized vehicle, the Escape, which uses an all-steel body structure. General Motors will produce hybrid-powered trucks, cars and buses, targeting as much as a 20 percent improvement in gas mileage for the full-sized trucks. DaimlerChrysler intends to apply hybrid engine technology to its highly popular Dodge Durango sport utility vehicle to gain at least 20
    percent in fuel efficiency.

    The all-steel unibody, five-passenger hybrid-powered Toyota Prius will appear in the United States this summer. Nissan, PSA (Peugeot Citroen) and Fiat also have concepts using hybrid powertrains in all-steel-bodied vehicles.

    "We commend the auto companies for their vision in selecting steel as the environmental material of choice for these vehicles," said Darryl Martin, senior director, Automotive Applications, American Iron and Steel Institute (AISI). "As we have been saying and demonstrating with our ULSAB (UltraLight Steel Auto Body) series of lightweighting initiatives, a reduced-mass,
    efficient steel design, coupled with a clean, highly fuel-efficient power source, such as the hybrid-electric concept, is the quickest, most effective way to deliver significantly higher mileage vehicles to buyers. In addition to EP{2} its high-performance characteristics, including those related to safety and recyclability, steel's cost advantages are virtually unassailable."

    The Toyota Prius is a steel structure vehicle, powered by a hybrid gasoline engine and electric motor. It boasts 52 highway miles per gallon (mpg) and 45 mpg city fuel efficiency, according to the U.S. EPA. During testing, the Prius
    showed a 50 percent reduction in carbon dioxide emissions and 90 percent reduction in carbon dioxide, hydrocarbons and nitrous oxides.

    Honda is making an HEV version of its steel-bodied Civic available to customers in the United States later this year. Additionally, Honda says its 2001 line-ups for Japan, Europe and the United States will include hybrid electric versions of its Accord, which features a steel body structure. Honda estimates the VTEC-I engine in its hybrid vehicles is capable of achieving 30 to 50 percent more miles per gallon than traditional gasoline-powered vehicles.

    Nissan is also entering the HEV market with its Tino. The steel-bodied Tino, also derived from an existing vehicle, combines a gas engine with two electric motors and a lithium ion battery pack. Nissan has made about 100 of the HEV
    Tinos available, only in Japan.

    Ford expects its HEV Escape to achieve about 40 mpg even in stop-and-go urban driving, while delivering acceleration comparable to the V-6 Escape, which has an EPA rating of 24 mpg highway and 20 mpg in city driving. The Escape features a strong, structurally efficient steel unibody structure that contributes to its superior fuel economy, driving dynamics and safety.

    John Rintamaki, group vice president and chief of staff, Ford Motor Company, said recently, "We aren't just waiting for these 'supercars' of tomorrow. We are taking what we're learning along the way and applying these new learnings
    to today's high-volume cars and trucks. Ford is committed to developing high-volume solutions to societal concerns. We're aiming to develop no-compromise, high-fuel-economy vehicles with mass appeal and affordability."

    Neil Ressler, vice president, Research and Vehicle Technology at Ford said, "We're applying advanced hybrid-electric technology to the heart of the American market: the highly popular sport utility vehicle. We'll also sell this hybrid-electric SUV in Europe, under the Maverick name. Its nimble driving characteristics and clean, fuel-efficient operation should make it
    especially appealing to customers."

    Vice President Al Gore, on the occasion of a press briefing March 30 associated with the Partnership for a New Generation of Vehicles (PNGV), endorsed the work of the carmakers, praising the "significant improvements" in
    fuel economy that the HEVs will achieve.

    The American Iron and Steel Institute (AISI) is a non-profit association of North American companies engaged in the iron and steel industry. The Institute comprises 47 member companies, including integrated and electric furnace steelmakers, and 174 associate and affiliate members who are suppliers to or
    customers of the steel industry.

    For more news about steel and its applications, view American Iron and Steel Institute's website at http://www.steel.org .

    07:27 EDT
  • gckorngckorn Posts: 45
    BUSINESSWEEK ONLINE
    AUGUST 14, 2000 ISSUE

    SPECIAL REPORT

    The Eco-Cars: As Detroit stalls, Japan drives in with appealing new hybrid models

    It was a scene that could have served as a heartwarming advertisement for clean-air consciousness. A nervous young customer picks up her new car: a sleek, 65-mile-per-gallon, ultra-low-emission Honda Insight. As she glides away from the dealership, a throng of onlookers gathers to wish her well and applaud her noble intentions.

    But Jennie Sharf, 29, is the first to admit that helping out the environment was far down the list when she made the big decision to plunk down 20 grand for her new wheels. Sure, as one of the first generation of so-called hybrid cars powered by both a tiny gasoline engine and an electric motor, the Insight uses technology that promises to help clean the environment and revolutionize the auto industry. Sharf's motivation, however, was far less lofty: She loves the look and feel of the curvy car. As for helping the environment, ''that's a bonus, but it takes a backseat to the coolness factor,'' says Sharf, a wireless-phone designer. ''I was looking for something that I could find in a parking lot without having a Styrofoam ball on the antenna.''

    Cool and environmentally correct? Now, consumers can have both. With Japanese auto makers leading the push, the auto industry has launched its first alternative-fuel vehicles to the mass market. The timing couldn't be better. As gas prices surge past $2 per gallon in some parts of the U.S., the Insight, and Toyota Motor Corp.'s $20,000, five-passenger Prius--making its American debut this month--promise to save about $500 a year on fuel, compared with, say, a Honda Civic. Plus, the hybrids' advanced engines easily beat stringent emissions ratings in smog-conscious California. An Insight, for example, generates roughly half the carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases of small cars such as the Toyota Corolla or Ford Focus.

    PLAYING CATCH-UP. In the next couple of years, the Japanese auto makers plan to kick their eco-car effort into high gear by selling adaptations of current-model cars and sport-utility vehicles equipped with hybrid power trains. Honda Motor Co. plans to sell a hybrid Civic in Japan next year, followed by a U.S. launch probably in 2002. Toyota is considering a minivan and an SUV within three years.

    Where's Detroit? Playing catch-up again. For years, U.S. car executives fought environmentalists' efforts to toughen federal gas-mileage rules and resisted California regulators' attempts to mandate cleaner cars. Now, thanks to their increasing tilt toward big SUVs and pickup trucks, U.S. manufacturers are being squeezed by regulations and by competitors who have found a way to sell environmentalism. After borrowing from future allowances to meet federal fuel-economy standards, Ford Motor Co. now must boost mileage in its fleet if it's to avoid millions of dollars in fines. That's a big reason why Ford recently trumpeted plans to boost by 25% the fuel economy of its SUVs, mostly by improving the efficiency of their gas engines and making new models lighter and more aerodynamic. ''By volunteering to get ahead of potential legislation, we've done more for the environment than having 600,000 hybrid electric vehicles on the road every year,'' says Ford CEO Jacques A. Nasser.

    HYBRID PICKUPS. Still, Ford, GM, and DaimlerChrysler are all scrambling to match Honda and Toyota. In 2003, Ford plans to introduce a gas-and-electric version of its new Escape SUV that would get 40 mpg, nearly twice the mileage of the gas-powered model. A Ford insider says the company hopes eventually to sell as many as 20,000 of the hybrid version annually. General Motors Corp., after devoting much of its clean-car efforts to its EV1 electric car, just announced it will sell a 20-mpg hybrid version of its hot-selling Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra pickup trucks in 2004. And DaimlerChrysler is working on a hybrid Durango SUV.

    American car executives mostly view hybrids as an interim technology that will capture only a small slice of the overall car market. GM says gas engines can still be squeezed for a 30% boost in fuel efficiency. Executives point out that Honda and Toyota lose money on each Insight or Prius they sell. Detroit is betting that by the time its hybrids arrive, the technology will be more popular and Washington will push it with tax incentives. DaimlerChrysler says it could sell 80,000 hybrid Durangos if the government turbo-charges the market with tax incentives.

    That seems a distant prospect in today's political climate (page 70). Meanwhile, critics say, the popularity of the Honda and Toyota cars makes it seem that U.S. auto makers are fumbling a huge opportunity. ''Detroit has missed the American auto market in the past, and there's a good possibility they can miss it on this one,'' says Robert F. Bennett (R-Utah), chair of the Senate high-technology task force. Adds Bennett, who recently bought an Insight: ''I would much have preferred to buy an American car if there'd been one.''

    Hybrids may turn out to be much more than just a stop-gap solution. Ultimately, the goal is to make cars that run on fuel cells requiring not one drop of gas, only hydrogen. But carmakers are learning valuable lessons with hybrid cars' electric systems, which will likely find their way into those next-generation vehicles. ''Any company that doesn't have a hybrid misses out on learning the technology as well as consumer reaction,'' says Firoz Rasul, CEO and president of Ballard Power Systems Inc., a Burnaby, B.C., company that's working on fuel cells with Ford and DaimlerChrysler.

    The first thing consumers find out when they test-drive the new eco-cars is that they're not overpriced experiments, as are the high-maintenance electric cars the industry has sold in tiny numbers over the past five years (page 68). The humbling experience with electrics taught car marketers that if they want to sell alternative-fuel cars in big numbers, they can't just appeal to affluent Sierra Club members eager to make a green statement. ''The Prius is a real car,'' says James Hall, managing director of AutoPacific, an auto consulting firm in Tustin, Calif.

    NO PLUG. Since most hybrids use an electric motor to assist a small traditional gasoline engine, they come close to matching the pickup and power of conventional cars. They have a striking high-tech look. Batteries are shrinking to take up less space. And drivers don't have to find a special plug to recharge, since hybrids refill their batteries by drawing power off the gas engine or from the energy of forward motion that's transferred to the battery as the car slows down.

    Already, sales are off to a strong start. Honda sold 1,600 Insight two-seaters in the U.S. from January through June--four times more than the total sales of GM'S EV1 in its three years on the market. Honda expects to sell 7,000 to 8,000 Insights this year, twice its original estimate. Toyota has sold 35,000 Priuses in Japan since 1997. ''They'll sell 12,000 [in the U.S.], no problem,'' says Rod Lache, auto-industry analyst with Deutsche Bank Securities Inc. in New York.

    That's still tiny compared with overall U.S. car and truck sales, which should hit about 17 million this year. And for now, there is no sign that consumers are ditching SUVs for compact hybrid cars. But if hybrid technology can be applied to existing and new models in a way that gives them ''mass appeal in a variety of vehicles,'' they could make up 20% of the market in 10 years, says Christopher W. Cedergren, an analyst with Nextrend in Thousand Oaks, Calif. Gloats Robert Bienenfeld, Honda's marketing manager for the Insight: ''When our competition comes out with their first hybrid, we'll be coming out with our second or third.''

    The Insight, with its distinctive low-slung rear end, already is drawing attention on the road. Its sleek lines, no doubt, are a big part of what lures prospective buyers eager for a test drive. But it's the surprising performance and convenience that persuades them to pull out the checkbook. ''A lot of people don't understand that you don't have to plug in the car,'' says Ernest Bastien, vehicle operations manager for Toyota Motor Sales USA Inc. The Insight can go 700 miles on a tank of gas, and the Prius can make it 500 miles. That sure beats GM's EV1, which has to spend hours hooked up to a special device after just 130 miles. ''These cars work, and electrics don't,'' says Insight owner John E. Johnson of Ann Arbor, Mich. Chris Jenkins of Ypsilanti, Mich., has a vanity license plate on his Insight that reads: ''NO PLUG.''

    It's no surprise that Japanese auto companies jumped on eco technology so eagerly. High gas prices and choking smog in their home market provide stronger consumer demand. Now, Honda and Toyota want to move beyond showcase cars. They plan to offer hybrid options with several high-volume models within five years. Already, Toyota has designed the Corolla compact and Camry midsize cars to carry such systems. ''We'll get to the point where, in the same way that you choose a 4-cylinder engine, a 6-cylinder, and a V8, you can choose between an internal-combustion engine, an eco-car, and eventually fuel cells,'' says James E. Press, president of Toyota Motor Sales USA.

    AT A LOSS. In the U.S., meanwhile, a love of burly trucks, mega-horsepower, and fully loaded luxury have made alternative drive systems less attractive to customers--so far. Delivering that kind of performance with hybrid engines still comes at a huge expense: With their specialized batteries and electrical systems, hybrids sell at a loss in the U.S. Analysts estimate that Honda loses $8,000 every time it sells an Insight. A spokesman says Honda expects to break even ''in a couple of years'' on the Insight, possibly by leveraging its development costs with a hybrid Civic. Toyota has admitted that it is losing money on the Prius, and Ford claims its hybrid Escape will break even only by selling at a $3,000 premium to gas-only models. ''At some point, these things have to be economically viable,'' says Bernard Robertson, senior vice-president of engineering technologies at Chrysler.

    That day may arrive sooner than U.S. execs expected. True, the industry has succeeded for six years in holding off any changes to the federal fuel-economy standards for cars and trucks--20.7 mpg for minivans and light trucks and 27 mpg for cars. But with every SUV that replaces a small car, auto makers' fuel-economy averages slip closer to the red zone. The Big Three already would be paying millions in fines if not for loopholes. Starting in 2004, the federal Clean Air Act will require across-the-board improvements in emissions. California appears to be moving forward with tough requirements that 10% of a manufacturer's sales be zero-emission vehicles in three years. For now, four hybrids count as one zero-emissions vehicle.

    That's why Detroit is suddenly trying to clean up its big bruisers. Ford's plan would lift its SUV fuel-economy average to 23 mpg. About a third of the improvement comes from the 22-mpg Escape that will soon hit the market. Three years later, the hybrid Escape will offer the same interior space and acceleration as the V6-powered model, while getting 40 mpg in the city. DaimlerChrysler says a hybrid Durango would get 20% better fuel economy and be just as brawny as the gas-powered V8 version. And GM's hybrid Silverado and Sierra pickups will boost mileage by an estimated 15%. Says GM Vice-Chairman Harry J. Pearce: ''Because full-size pickups are significant fuel users, you get the biggest bang for your buck.''

    Detroit has lobbied heavily for federal incentives to boost development of alternative-fuel technologies, but it can't rely on a handout. If anything, the mood in Washington has swung the other way. Take the ''super car'' project, for instance. Five years and $1.25 billion after Vice-President Al Gore and Big Three auto chiefs committed to developing clean-burning cars capable of 80 mpg, the program has little to show. The House and Senate recently voted to cut funding in half. Representative John E. Sununu (R-N.H.), who led the charge to slash the project, says the success of the Insight and Prius demonstrates why subsidies won't work. ''It may well be precisely because the federal government has been subsidizing certain areas of innovation that we're behind the Japanese,'' he says.

    Carmakers did learn one valuable marketing lesson with electrics: Only the most committed environmentalists were willing to pay extra or give up driving conveniences to make a clean-air statement. That's backed up by recent studies. Most of the 28,000 car buyers surveyed by AutoPacific said they wouldn't alter driving habits until gas hits at least $2.10 per gallon. ''Very few people would be willing to pay even $500 extra for a clean vehicle,'' says George C. Peterson, president of AutoPacific.

    ALUMINUM FOIL. Price hasn't been the only problem with electric cars. Although GM quickly attracted a hard-core group of enthusiasts with its launch of the EV1 in 1996, that entire first generation was recalled last fall because of problems with the charging socket. The owners were given leases on new EV1s. Honda pulled its EV-Plus from the market last year but still has more than 300 on the road.

    Executives admit they never intended to sell many electrics. GM offered its EV1 only for lease at some Saturn dealerships, and customers had to submit to two days of interviews and instruction before driving off with a car. A spokesman says GM wanted to make sure lessees knew what they were getting into. Margaret Cheng, a 53-year-old systems planner for a Southern California power company, recalls an hour-long interview in which an EV1 specialist stressed all the drawbacks before letting her drive off. ''It's amazing that some of us were persistent enough to get the car,'' Cheng says.

    Hybrids are far from perfect. To boost performance, the Insight relies on an all-aluminum body that weighs just 1,800 pounds, half the bulk of the average family sedan. The car holds up in crash testing but makes for an expensive trip to the body shop. Some Insight owners say they live in fear of not just collisions but also door dings and hail. Anna Eley of Atlanta says her husband got in a parking-lot accident with a Cadillac DeVille while driving her silver Insight. Both cars were going slower than 15 mph. The DeVille drove off with a busted grille while the Insight was totaled, says Eley.

    New as they are, Hybrids may be replaced by a far more promising technology. The industry has pumped billions into developing fuel cells, which extract electrons from the chemical reaction between hydrogen and oxygen. The exhaust is clean water, and the electric power results in a quieter ride than any gasoline engine.

    Fuel cells appear much closer than they were five years ago--but don't hold your breath. Most execs don't expect mass-market vehicles for 10 years. DaimlerChrysler is probably furthest along. It committed $1 billion to fuel-cell development and has a working version of its Mercedes A
    BUSINESSWEEK ONLINE
    AUGUST 14, 2000 ISSUE

    SPECIAL REPORT

    The Eco-Cars: As Detroit stalls, Japan drives in with appealing new hybrid models

    It was a scene that could have served as a heartwarming advertisement for clean-air consciousness. A nervous young customer picks up her new car: a sleek, 65-mile-per-gallon, ultra-low-emission Honda Insight. As she glides away from the dealership, a throng of onlookers gathers to wish her well and applaud her noble intentions.

    But Jennie Sharf, 29, is the first to admit that helping out the environment was far down the list when she made the big decision to plunk down 20 grand for her new wheels. Sure, as one of the first generation of so-called hybrid cars powered by both a tiny gasoline engine and an electric motor, the Insight uses technology that promises to help clean the environment and revolutionize the auto industry. Sharf's motivation, however, was far less lofty: She loves the look and feel of the curvy car. As for helping the environment, ''that's a bonus, but it takes a backseat to the coolness factor,'' says Sharf, a wireless-phone designer. ''I was looking for something that I could find in a parking lot without having a Styrofoam ball on the antenna.''

    Cool and environmentally correct? Now, consumers can have both. With Japanese auto makers leading the push, the auto industry has launched its first alternative-fuel vehicles to the mass market. The timing couldn't be better. As gas prices surge past $2 per gallon in some parts of the U.S., the Insight, and Toyota Motor Corp.'s $20,000, five-passenger Prius--making its American debut this month--promise to save about $500 a year on fuel, compared with, say, a Honda Civic. Plus, the hybrids' advanced engines easily beat stringent emissions ratings in smog-conscious California. An Insight, for example, generates roughly half the carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases of small cars such as the Toyota Corolla or Ford Focus.

    PLAYING CATCH-UP. In the next couple of years, the Japanese auto makers plan to kick their eco-car effort into high gear by selling adaptations of current-model cars and sport-utility vehicles equipped with hybrid power trains. Honda Motor Co. plans to sell a hybrid Civic in Japan next year, followed by a U.S. launch probably in 2002. Toyota is considering a minivan and an SUV within three years.

    Where's Detroit? Playing catch-up again. For years, U.S. car executives fought environmentalists' efforts to toughen federal gas-mileage rules and resisted California regulators' attempts to mandate cleaner cars. Now, thanks to their increasing tilt toward big SUVs and pickup trucks, U.S. manufacturers are being squeezed by regulations and by competitors who have found a way to sell environmentalism. After borrowing from future allowances to meet federal fuel-economy standards, Ford Motor Co. now must boost mileage in its fleet if it's to avoid millions of dollars in fines. That's a big reason why Ford recently trumpeted plans to boost by 25% the fuel economy of its SUVs, mostly by improving the efficiency of their gas engines and making new models lighter and more aerodynamic. ''By volunteering to get ahead of potential legislation, we've done more for the environment than having 600,000 hybrid electric vehicles on the road every year,'' says Ford CEO Jacques A. Nasser.

    HYBRID PICKUPS. Still, Ford, GM, and DaimlerChrysler are all scrambling to match Honda and Toyota. In 2003, Ford plans to introduce a gas-and-electric version of its new Escape SUV that would get 40 mpg, nearly twice the mileage of the gas-powered model. A Ford insider says the company hopes eventually to sell as many as 20,000 of the hybrid version annually. General Motors Corp., after devoting much of its clean-car efforts to its EV1 electric car, just announced it will sell a 20-mpg hybrid version of its hot-selling Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra pickup trucks in 2004. And DaimlerChrysler is working on a hybrid Durango SUV.

    American car executives mostly view hybrids as an interim technology that will capture only a small slice of the overall car market. GM says gas engines can still be squeezed for a 30% boost in fuel efficiency. Executives point out that Honda and Toyota lose money on each Insight or Prius they sell. Detroit is betting that by the time its hybrids arrive, the technology will be more popular and Washington will push it with tax incentives. DaimlerChrysler says it could sell 80,000 hybrid Durangos if the government turbo-charges the market with tax incentives.

    That seems a distant prospect in today's political climate (page 70). Meanwhile, critics say, the popularity of the Honda and Toyota cars makes it seem that U.S. auto makers are fumbling a huge opportunity. ''Detroit has missed the American auto market in the past, and there's a good possibility they can miss it on this one,'' says Robert F. Bennett (R-Utah), chair of the Senate high-technology task force. Adds Bennett, who recently bought an Insight: ''I would much have preferred to buy an American car if there'd been one.''

    Hybrids may turn out to be much more than just a stop-gap solution. Ultimately, the goal is to make cars that run on fuel cells requiring not one drop of gas, only hydrogen. But carmakers are learning valuable lessons with hybrid cars' electric systems, which will likely find their way into those next-generation vehicles. ''Any company that doesn't have a hybrid misses out on learning the technology as well as consumer reaction,'' says Firoz Rasul, CEO and president of Ballard Power Systems Inc., a Burnaby, B.C., company that's working on fuel cells with Ford and DaimlerChrysler.

    The first thing consumers find out when they test-drive the new eco-cars is that they're not overpriced experiments, as are the high-maintenance electric cars the industry has sold in tiny numbers over the past five years (page 68). The humbling experience with electrics taught car marketers that if they want to sell alternative-fuel cars in big numbers, they can't just appeal to affluent Sierra Club members eager to make a green statement. ''The Prius is a real car,'' says James Hall, managing director of AutoPacific, an auto consulting firm in Tustin, Calif.

    NO PLUG. Since most hybrids use an electric motor to assist a small traditional gasoline engine, they come close to matching the pickup and power of conventional cars. They have a striking high-tech look. Batteries are shrinking to take up less space. And drivers don't have to find a special plug to recharge, since hybrids refill their batteries by drawing power off the gas engine or from the energy of forward motion that's transferred to the battery as the car slows down.

    Already, sales are off to a strong start. Honda sold 1,600 Insight two-seaters in the U.S. from January through June--four times more than the total sales of GM'S EV1 in its three years on the market. Honda expects to sell 7,000 to 8,000 Insights this year, twice its original estimate. Toyota has sold 35,000 Priuses in Japan since 1997. ''They'll sell 12,000 [in the U.S.], no problem,'' says Rod Lache, auto-industry analyst with Deutsche Bank Securities Inc. in New York.

    That's still tiny compared with overall U.S. car and truck sales, which should hit about 17 million this year. And for now, there is no sign that consumers are ditching SUVs for compact hybrid cars. But if hybrid technology can be applied to existing and new models in a way that-Class subcompact that it plans to start selling in Europe in four years. Honda has spent $500 million to develop fuel-cell cars and wants to have them ready in three years. But it has no current plans to go to market. Ditto for Toyota and GM. ''I really don't see significant volumes--in the hundreds of thousands of cars--until the end of the decade,'' says Lawrence D. Burns, GM's vice-president for research and development.

    Even that assumes steady progress on a whole range of daunting technical issues. Supplying hydrogen fuel, for instance, is no easy trick. The two preferred methods are to store methanol aboard the car and draw hydrogen from the methanol or to store the hydrogen itself. Methanol can be pumped from existing gas stations. But the onboard hardware to strip out hydrogen from methanol would add $1,500 in vehicle costs and create maintenance challenges. And hydrogen has to be stored under heavy pressure or at very low temperatures.

    Still, if hybrids really catch on--if the technology becomes just another option, such as antilock brakes--they could speed the day that the industry ditches fossil fuels altogether. ''As we pursue the Holy Grail, existing technology is getting cleaner,'' says Ford Chairman William C. Ford Jr. The trick is to put clean technology into the cool cars and trucks that buyers crave. If auto makers can do that, more buyers like Jennie Sharf will take an interest in green vehicles without ever thinking about what is or isn't sputtering out the tailpipe.

    By David Welch in Detroit, with Lorraine Woellert in Washington, D.C.
  • gckorngckorn Posts: 45
    BUSINESSWEEK ONLINE:
    AUGUST 14, 2000 ISSUE

    SPECIAL REPORT

    46 Miles Per Gallon... 47... 48...

    Rarely do I worry about how much gas I'm burning while lead-footing it through town. But after a few days in Toyota Motor Corp.'s (TM) new Prius, I became fixated, like a kid staring at a video game, on the fuel-economy numbers flickering at the top of my dashboard. Soon I was poking along at 55 in a 65-mph zone, sweltering with my air-conditioning purposely shut off and the windows rolled up (it cuts down wind resistance). All that so I could nudge my mileage up to the government-rated 48 miles per gallon.

    Life in the slow lane has never been so thrilling. Sliding behind the wheel of a fuel-sipping gas-and-electric powered Prius or its only rival, Honda Motor Co.'s (HMC) Insight, can be habit-forming. The Prius, just now hitting U.S. showrooms, displays average fuel economy in real time through a video screen. The Insight, which has been on sale in the U.S. for six months, also tracks mileage on a dashboard display. Owners strive for the best fuel-economy stats, then brag about them in Internet chat rooms.

    THE REAL DEAL. But whereas the Insight is a hip two-seater, the Prius delivers high efficiency with real-car performance and convenience. Its 1.5-liter, four-cylinder gas engine and 33-kilowatt electric motor combine for 114 horsepower, vs. 73 for the Insight. That's no hot rod, but it matches many compacts on the road. And the $20,000 Prius comfortably seats five, so long as the three people in the back aren't too lanky. The trunk is roomy, offering 12 cubic feet of cargo space.

    The most noticeable difference in driving a hybrid is the interaction of the electric and gas power plants. In the Prius, the electric motor gets you started smoothly, with a ghostly silence. The gas engine shuts down when you're stopped. At about 10 miles an hour, you can feel the gas engine subtly start up without the grind and shudder of an ignition start. That recharges the batteries while giving the Prius a fairly peppy acceleration. It helps that the all-steel body is a lightweight 2,765 pounds--more than the 1,800-pound aluminum Insight but a lot less than the typical 3,200-pound small car. There are a few downsides. Once you're up to highway speeds, the Prius does broadcast a fair amount of road noise. And it took me three days to get used to the tight brakes.

    Still, no one buys a hybrid expecting muscle. They're falling for the high-tech gadgetry and great gas mileage. For many, the Insight has the same funky fashion appeal as Volkswagen's (VLKAY) New Beetle. That look--especially the distinctive ''skirt'' that extends halfway down the rear wheels--is not for everyone. When I took the Insight for a spin, one driver stopped me to call it a computer mouse on wheels. While the Prius has a more conventional exterior, its interior is decidedly modern. The touch-sensitive video screen toggles between the fuel-use monitor and a fun schematic showing how energy flows between the wheels, electric motor, gas engine, and battery.

    Next up: Ford (F) and GM (GM) are promising hybrid versions of their hulking SUVs and pickups. If the car companies can transplant this technology into their most popular models, we'll really have something to honk about.

    By David Welch in Detroit
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