LOS ANGELES – Toyota shows a couple of firsts at this city’s auto show: a Corolla compact sedan with a gasoline-electric hybrid system and a Prius – the granddaddy of hybrids – with all-wheel drive.
“Our message here is to demonstrate we are serious about our hybrid offerings,” says Jack Hollis, group vice president and general manager of Toyota’s U.S. unit. The importance of hybrids continues to grow.”
The first-ever ’20 Corolla hybrid was “crafted from the ground up” and built on the Toyota New Global Architecture. It arrives at dealerships next spring.
The’19 Prius AWD unveiled at the show sports a ski roof-rack to show the sedan, the first hybrid to hit the market more than 20 years ago, now offers go-anywhere capability.
“It allows you to take your Prius on more varied terrain,” Hollis says. “It’s an urban car that now also can go in other places.” The Prius hybrid arrives at dealerships in January. “Now is the perfect time to bring it out,” Hollis says.
It joins the RAV4 compact CUV, Highlander midsize CUV and Sienna minivan in Toyota models offering AWD, a system that provides better handling and traction control.
AWD won’t stop with the Prius, Hollis tells Wards on the sidelines.
“We’ve been listening to consumers and dealers who talk to our customers constantly, and more all-wheel drive is to come on other vehicles.”
He adds, “Consumers see it as an advantage, even if they are not going offroad. It is a consumer desire that even ties into safety. Inclement weather occurs everywhere. AWD provides that extra sense of security.”
A single electric motor powers the front wheels of the conventional Prius. In the AWD version, two small electric motors are added to turn each back wheel. The AWD will boost the sticker price by about $1,200.
Toyota’s hybrid strategy began with a dedicated single model, the Prius, but now hybrid versions are offered on vehicles throughout the lineup. Its inclusion in the Corolla model lineup is significant for such an entry-level vehicle.
“If you go back to 2015, Akio Toyoda (president of the Toyota) said we wanted a hybrid offering in all the vehicles we sell,” Hollis says. “We continue to pursue that strategy.”