Toyota announced today that it was launching a family of cars under the Prius brand name. The company will add a new larger hybrid, the Prius v (a mini-SUV) and the very small Prius-C. Toyota will also add the Prius PHV, a plug-in variety.
You can read about the full line here:
Is this a good idea? It is easy to argue it both ways.
On the one hand, by adding more vehicles to the Prius family, Toyota can capitalize on the power of Prius to drive growth. All of the vehicles use hybrid technology, so there is some consistency across the line. The vehicles are fairly small, too, so that is consistent as well.
The problem is that by stretching the Prius brand Toyota will water it down. Yesterday, when I thought of a Prius I knew exactly what it was; a small, environmentally friendly hybrid car. If I walked into a Toyota dealer and asked for one I knew what I would get. It was a brand with very clear associations. Today, I’m not sure what I would get if I went to a Toyota dealer and asked for a Prius. Would I get the Prius I know? Or would I get a bigger one, or a smaller one?
Historically, Toyota has supported its brands with remarkable consistency. Toyota launched Camry in 1982, Highlander in 2000 and Corolla way back in 1966. Sticking with the brands has worked well for Toyota; the company has built a strong brand portfolio.
Broadening the Prius will drive short-term sales, certainly, but I think it will significantly weaken the Prius brand over time.