Toyota Unveils Compact FT-HC, a Dedicated Hybrid

Prius to become a North American brand with multiple models.

by on Jan.11, 2010

The first new Prius model as it becomes a brand.

Toyota Motor Sales (TMS), U.S.A., Inc., today unveiled the FT-CH, a dedicated hybrid concept at the North American International Auto Show (NAIAS) in Detroit.

Smaller and projected to be less expensive than the mid-size Prius, the FT-CH is part of a larger is strategy to offer a wider variety of conventional hybrid choices to its customers, as it begins to introduce plug-in hybrids (PHVs) and battery electrics (BEVs) in model year 2012, and hydrogen fuel cell vehicles (FCHVs) in 2015 in global markets.

FT-HC at about $20,000 would be formidable competition for the emerging breed of plug-in electric vehicles with their limited range, such as the Chevrolet Volt which is expected to sell for twice that even given a lavish $7,500 taxpayer subsidy per unit.

The FT-CH was created at Toyota’s European Design and Development (ED2) center in Nice, France. Compared to Prius, it is 22 inches shorter in overall length, six inches shorter in wheelbase, and less than an inch in overall width.

Less expensive than the $25,000-35,000 Prius.

“We must re-invent it with powertrains that significantly reduce or eliminate the use of conventional petroleum fuels. One of many alternatives is through what is commonly called the electrification of the automobile. By far, the single most successful example of this has been the gas-electric hybrid,” said Jim Lentz, TMS president.

Pointing to how Prius has become a universal icon for hybrid technology, Lentz confirmed that TMS is developing a Prius family “marketing strategy” for North America that will take full advantage of the Prius brand equity.

“The strategy is still taking shape and obviously it will require additional models to qualify as a family,” said Lentz. “Among others, the FT-CH is a concept that we are considering.”

A four-door in concept, does Prius FT-HC morph to a hatch in production?

ED2 designers looked to capture what has come to be called the 8-bit generation. Popularized in the early 80′s, 8-bit microprocessor technology dominated the budding home video game industry. Today, 8-bit is considered a specific retro-style that is embraced by such things as 8-bit genre music and 8-bit inspired art.

In the early 2010s, Toyota plans to sell a million hybrids per year globally, a majority of those in North America. Toyota will launch eight all new hybrid models over the next few years. These will not include next generation versions of current hybrids. They will be all new dedicated hybrid vehicles, or all new hybrid versions of existing gas engine models.

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