October 16, 2008

MPG-o-rama! 2010 Prius leak confirmed; Toyota speaks on Scion iQ rumors

Fuel misers rejoice! We've got a double shot of Toyota MPG-centric news for you tonight.

Last night, while I was off waxing poetic about the British and their victory in the Nevada desert 11 years hence, the internet was boiling over with rumors that the 2010 Prius had done the full-monty strip show.

After weeks of execrable teaser shots, it's true. The design of the 2010 Toyota Prius has indeed been revealed in its entirety.
It all started at PriusChat.com, where member bossdowner posted four pictures of the third generation Prius.

After a day of speculation, the truth was revealed when the lads at Jalopnik sat down with Toyota's PR reps. They confirmed the pictures were legit, but declined to comment further.

So we have no other information about the car at this time. Instead, we'll all have to wait until the car's official unveiling at the Detroit Motor Show in January.

Or until the next leak gushes forth.

Toyota engineer confirms iQ under review for sale in USA
In other news, one of Toyota's top engineers has confirmed the Japanese automaker is considering selling the new iQ subcompact in the United States.

Speaking with Automotive News, Hiroki Nakajima said that Toyota is investigating the idea and that he expects a launch date before the iQ is given a mid-model refresh. Sales of the iQ begin in Japan on November 20; the tiny Toyota is a 2+2 competitor to the 2-seat Smart forTwo subcompact.

While the JDM model is powered by a 1.0-liter SOHC 12-valve inline-3, Nakajima said there is plenty of room to install the 1.5-liter DOHC 16-valve four currently used in the Toyota Yaris compact hatchback.

The iQ's unique transmission - which sits below the engine rather than behind the engine - would carry over, as it is crucial to maximizing space within the iQ's 77-inch wheelbase.

And as we reported earlier this week, the iQ is quite thifty. While the EU testing regimen differs from ours, 65 mpg is quite a feat. Even if that figure drops by 15 percent due to added weight and a larger motor, the smart forTwo would have face stiff competition in a market it currently owns.

But first, a reality check. Tossing aside the rose-colored glasses for a moment, there are a few hurdles the iQ must clear before we see it stateside.

A number of changes must be made to the iQ unit-body structure. Speaking with Automotive News, Nakajima said the iQ's airbags would need to be redesigned and the bumpers would need to be strengthened to pass federal safety standards.

Another issue is price. The 118-inch long iQ might be dinky, but the price tag isn't. In Japan, the iQ retails for between $13,860 and $15,840 (¥1.4M - ¥1.6M). It's a safe bet to add another $1,000 to cover the cost of shipping and retooling the iQ to meet US safety standards.

And even though the rumor mill has the iQ pegged as a new Scion, it doesn't really change the marketing math. Assuming the iQ is priced near $16,000, the subcompact will fight it out with the Honda Fit Sport, Toyota's own Yaris sedan and Scions' own xD hatch.

At the bottom end of the market, profit margins are often very slim. And the entire industry is headed into a very turbulent economy. With sales of new cars tanking this year and 2009 expected to be just as bleak, the iQ might only steal sales from within the Toyota family.

But then again, I might be the one who's off base. After all, I was rattling on about supersonic rocket cars — humming Rule Brittania [MP3]— while all this came to pass.


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