Prius and reliable go together like peanut butter and jelly. It just works. The thing is, the demand for carmakers to hit higher economy and emissions standards has left them in a tight spot. The Prius is no exception to this.
Here are two interesting thoughts on why 2004-2009 (2nd Generation) Toyota Prius is still one of the most sought after hybrids, and why 2020 could be following in its footsteps
Thought One, The Hybrid System Has The Bugs Worked Out
Prius came out in 1997 in Japan. During those first awkward years, we saw some peculiar things in that first edition of the first generation. We had an onboard charger, a turtle light, and you could only buy it online. All new things that were totally out of the norm for buying a car. Not to mention, it was a hybrid.
By the time that Prius made its way over here to the United States, it had been out for about 3 to 4 years. Prius had undergone some refinements, and the car overall was improved. In short, you could say that many of the initial bugs were worked out.
In 2004 when generation two was released, those refinements had a massive impact. The whole car seemed better; that is because it was. Gen 2 had all the improvements that Gen 1 data had given them. Consequently, it was a better driving, more fuel-efficient, and more reliable vehicle.
It was not that the whole car had changed; it is that Toyota fixed all the small irritating things about the first-gen and repackaged it into a second. That was a huge win.
Thought Two, The Third Generation Was A Test Bed For Fourth Generation
Third-generation Toyota Prius is a great car, by no means do I want to say it is a bad car. It is, however, just different. When 2010 rolled around, the new Prius was utterly different than the previous generation. The body, the powertrain, the hybrid system, and even parts of the hybrid battery, were all different.
Different can be great unless your different is full of issues. That is how third-gen Prius started its life. By the time 2012 rolled around, we began to see this car having all sorts of strange problems crop up. The inverters were failing, the head gaskets were giving out, and oil consumption, add it to the list.
Why did a car with such a strong background all of a sudden start having issues? My theory is that Toyota and every other car maker out there have been tasked to do some impossible things. CAFE (Corporate Average Fuel Economy) regulations have been pushing auto manufacturers to their limits. Prius, because it is such a great addition to the Toyota fleet, made some severe changes to accommodate the new CAFE regulations.
The problem was, it was like they were starting all over again. A new car meant that they would have to face entirely new issues: new bugs, latest fixes, all of it.
Even though many third-generation Prius owners have few problems, a plethora of other owners do. While later versions of the third-gen seem to have the issues resolved, NHSTA and Toyota are both very aware of the fact these cars are problematic.
Not all second-gen owners have a perfect car; not all third owners have problems. I will say though looking at if the trend is to continue, I think that 4th generation could go well or fall on its face. My theory is that if Toyota has for sure worked out all the bugs, the 2020 Prius should be a refined machine.
I know Toyota is very invested in hybrid technology, and I am sure that they have every intention of making Prius a continued staple in their line up. It makes sense for them to invest everything they can to ensure the success of the 2020 Prius to be the next second-gen.
Thank you for reading, be sure to check out my other Prius story. Tesla Cybertruck and Toyota Prius, Two Peas In A Pod.
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Peter Neilson is an automotive consultant specializing in electric cars and hybrid battery technologies. He holds a Bachelor of Science in Automotive Service Technology from Weber State University. Peter is also an Instructor of Automotive Technology at Columbia Basin College. Peter can be reached on Linkedin and you can tweet him at The_hybrid_guy on Twitter. Find his page on Facebook at Certified Auto Consulting