The Toyota Prius has been on an incredible ride. Now it's at a marketing crossroads.
In the UK, the Prius story began in 2000 when Toyota introduced its first generation model, but it wasn’t until 2003, when they introduced a model with more room and better fuel economy, that the brand became a real trailblazer. The 2003 Prius soared to prominence, its futuristic styling and improved power units saw it emerge as a status symbol for Hollywood celebrities and saw a huge rise in sales as petrol prices rose.
The Prius name became so strong that in 2011 Toyota made the decision to turn Prius into a brand of its own and launched three variant versions in addition to the original hatchback: the roomier Prius V, a small high-mileage Prius C and a plug-in. In 2012 and 2013, Prius sales experienced new heights.
Today, the Prius name is synonymous with eco-driving. However, the hybrid revolution that Toyota sub-brand ushered in has put it in an awkward position. So many other brands have followed Toyota's lead into the hybrid market that the Prius needs to up its game to stand out. Currently, the Prius is still the top selling hybrid on the market but the competition is growing.
The current Prius range boasts an impressive economy starting at 70.6 MPG and Co2 emissions as low as 89g/km. However, there are rumors spreading about the introduction of a new model in 2016, which seeks to attract a newer audience. Dealers who have already seen early versions of the 2016 model claim it is “a more sporty and more streamlined” design which “may appeal to a wider audience who may not have considered a Prius”
To further strengthen the brand and to ensure that the Prius maintains its market share, Toyota has already geared up a new marketing push, including national TV advertisements, social media and online marketing as well as in-market driving events. Prius’ marketing manager, Erica Gartsbeyn, said the company aims to reach beyond the more tech savvy and environmentally conscious consumers who have made up the bulk of the Prius customer base and to appeal to more mainstream buyers – “talk to people who never considered buying a hybrid in the past to educate them so they understand that driving a hybrid is just like driving any other car."