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New options make Prius pricey

Mon, 02 Mar 2009

High-tech features and luxury options will push the redesigned Toyota Prius into new territory--namely, $30,000-plus.

The 2010 Prius hybrid will offer options found on luxury cars: systems that automatically park the car in a parallel parking space and slow the vehicle when a crash is likely.

But Toyota is aware of a new competitor--the 2010 Honda Insight, a hybrid that is a little smaller and expected to be less expensive than the Prius.

"We will face many challenges when the Prius goes on sale--the economy and the Honda Insight," says Bob Carter, general manager of Toyota Division. "We are absolutely confident Prius will remain the hybrid leader."

The Insight is classified as a compact while the Prius will compete in the mid-sized segment. Standard equipment levels differ--for instance, stability control is standard on the Prius and optional on the Insight.

The Insight's base price is expected to be under $20,000 when sales begin in April. Honda's model is a mild hybrid, which uses an electric motor to assist propulsion. The Prius is a two-mode hybrid.

The price for the 2010 Prius has not been announced, but the 2009 Prius has a base price of $22,720 including shipping. Earlier this year, Toyota cut the sticker price of a loaded 2009 Prius by $1,500, to $25,500.

Speaking about the high-tech and luxury options, Carter says the redesigned 2010 Prius "does not represent a major departure from how we are positioned in the market today. We are adding features that were not available on the current car."

Current Prius owners sought those features, Carter said.

But when asked whether the sticker for a loaded 2010 Prius will top $30,000, Doug Coleman, product manager for the Prius, said, "I wouldn't doubt it."

Coleman adds that those cars probably will make up about 5 percent of total sales.

The 2010 Prius will arrive at dealers in late May. The marketing launch will be in June. Carter expects to sell 100,000 unites of the 2010 Prius this year and 180,000 next during a full year of production.

Carter says the Prius will beat the Insight in passenger space and fuel economy.

The 2010 Prius has an EPA rating of 50 mpg city/49 highway, up from 48 and 45 mpg on the 2009 Prius. The Insight carries an EPA rating of 40 mpg city/43 highway.

By Rick Kranz- Automotive News