Toyota takes a deep breath as it launches third-generation Prius in China
BEIJING, Feb 23 — The third generation of the Toyota Prius was officially launched in Shenzhen, China, a move which the Japanese automaker hopes will help it gain a foothold in the world’s largest auto market.
The launch in Shenzhen yesterday saw the updated Prius (picture) become available in China for the first time, replacing the second-generation model after seven years.
It’s a big launch for Toyota, which was stung by poor Chinese sales figures of the hugely expensive second-generation Prius which, in one particularly embarrassing revelation, only managed to sell one model in 2010.
The launch in Shenzhen has raised some eyebrows because of Shenzhen’s reputation as China’s most forward-thinking city when it comes to green transportation — it’s home to BYD, a Chinese firm known for its electric vehicles such as the E6, which went on sale in October 2011.
Because of this, Shenzhen is likely to already be a hard sell for the Prius, a model which doesn’t boast the full electrification many Chinese buyers in the city will be familiar with (especially as the taxi and bus fleet is electric too).
It’s likely to be even harder because of the relatively expensive price of the Prius compared to Chinese-built models — the second generation was priced between RM110,000 and RM140,000, and although that number is expected to fall slightly for the new version, it’s still considerably more than most vehicles.
In another piece of bad news, the Prius could soon be facing even more home-grown competition, with the government keen to focus more on hybrids because of the relatively poor infrastructure for electric vehicles outside of Shenzhen.
Toyota, for its part, is staying optimistic, saying that it plans to produce the cars locally in the country by 2015. — AFP-Relaxnews