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What Toyota Really Said About Next-Gen Prius MPG Goals
Jeff Cobb August 30, 2013
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Perhaps you’ve seen reports this week saying Toyota “will” or may achieve a 10-percent improvement “goal” over the current-generation Prius’ 50 mpg combined EPA rating.
The notion that Toyota will try for a 55 mpg target was not actually said by Toyota, and these reports are the product of two inductive leaps by journalists: 1) that Toyota’s goal is 10 percent, and 2) that Toyota aims to hit it.
In fact, Toyota Managing Officer Satoshi Ogiso gave nothing more than very hedged answers to probing questions by two journalists on Wednesday at Toyota’s Hybrid World Tour in Ypsilanti, Mich.
The context for the roughly 10-percent improvement goal speculation is based on the past trend from Toyota’s first Japanese-launched Prius in 1997 to generation 2 in 2003 to the present third-gen in 2009.
The inductive leap came after Ogiso referred to these previous incremental increases. His answer was in response to the classic scenario of a journalist asking a company to tell its secrets a few years in advance, and having the company say it cannot answer future product plans.
With laughter and humor as he gracefully played his traditional role in the age-old ritual, Ogiso deflected the pointed question, made reference to past benchmarks set, and essentially said, take a guess.
“Please ask something else,” Ogiso said at the end of his round-a-bout response to the laughter of a room full of journalists.
And despite the old mantra that “past performance is not necessarily indicative of future performance,” most reporters ran with the imagery and said Toyota wants 10 percent next time.
Actually, Toyota will take what it can get, which may be more or less than 10 percent.
This was further shown after Automotive News’ Mark Rechtin asked Ogiso another question asking him to spell out future plans, and again, it was met with humor and deflection.
“Americans like really big round numbers for their fuel economy. It’s a great marketing idea, it gets them very excited,” said Rechtin humorously prefacing his question with some predictable laughter following by various people in attendance.
“You’ve talked about vastly improved fuel economy,” Rechtin continued now getting to his specific question. “Are you willing to say the next generation Prius will get 60 mpg?”
This question by a leading journalist which came after the previous question proves no one said 55 mpg was any sort of target, and this was later verified by direct questions from HybridCars.com to Toyota executives.
Ogiso’s answer was again a softball and humorous reply that mitigated the probing question with more allegory.
“Thank you so much for a difficult question to answer,” said Ogiso San. “Of course I love rounded numbers.”
He went on to ask the reporters to recall that 50 mpg combined rating for the present Prius is a world record. He then said he is a runner for physical fitness, and can appreciate the challenge to human limitations in breaking a world record.
As an example, he mentioned the current 100-meter dash world record. This is presently owned by Usain Bolt at 9.58 seconds.
Ogiso followed this by saying that if the fourth-generation Prius exceeds 50 mpg, it would be on par with a new world 100-meter dash.
“It’s a world record. So from 50 – 55 improvement rating, 10 percent, that’s just equal to [saying ] “He broke his record from 9.5 seconds to 8.5 seconds,” said Ogiso. “It’s very hard, hard work to keep continuous pace from first generation to current generation and fourth generation.”
After painting that image, Ogiso San said “we will continue our challenge.”
He left little doubt Toyota would be just as happy with 11 percent or 15 percent or 18 percent from the improved parallel hybrid that his inferences suggest may be launched some time around 2015.
It’s getting more and more challenging for Toyota to keep outdoing itself however, Ogiso said. It has embraced the goal for improvement, expects to beat its past record, but what it actually does we’ll have to wait and see.
Posted in Culture & Market
Tagged as gen 4 prius, generation four prius, next prius, prius 55 mpg, prius economy, Prius Liftback
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