Is Time Right for Toyota Prius in Thailand?

The Toyota Prius has been an option for environmentally conscious motorists since 1997. Almost a decade later a visit to Toyota Thailand's website contains a short flash presentation of the Prius with the message: "To the Power of Hybrid - Get ready for the new journey."

Are Toyota hinting at a forthcoming release of the Prius on the Thai market? Is the timing right? Will it sell? Should it sell?

Toyota Web Site Prius

Rumors have been circulating for some time that Toyota would begin assembly of the Prius in Thailand, but the thinking was generally that the Thai market was not ready for the Prius and it would only be constructed here for exports to other markets, such as Australia.

But the teaser message on today would hint that there is an intention by Toyota to bring hybrid technology to Thailand. Perhaps Toyota have been noticing that some of the import companies have been offloading steady numbers of the car, even with prices in excess of THB 2 million.

Who wants it?

Higher fuel prices are a global issue. Oil is a finite resource and it's running out for everyone. While the Prius does not represent the answer to our transport energy problem, it does offer a greener alternative, without the need for major compromises. Assuming of course that the price is right.

The Prius is a hit among celebrities wishing to portray an image of environmental awareness, residence of California, and folks who want free parking in London. What makes Toyota think that it will be able to sell it in Thailand in any real numbers?

Success for the Prius has been more about local government action than Toyota marketing. It has been successful in markets where favorable tax incentives, and benefits for owners of hybrid vehicles have been available. To do well in Thailand, the Prius will need to be given similar advantages.

One possible way this could happen is via a new scheme which would give tax benefits to cars in the sub 1.6 liter sector when they display an energy efficiency label. So far only Honda has agreed to display the labels, and it remains to be seen if this will have any impact at all.

But is the Prius really all that efficient anyway?

Nissan Teana

The Prius can offer small car economy while also providing performance comparable to 2.0 liter engined cars. But modern 2.0 liter engines such as the QR20DE found in the new Nissan Teana 2.0L, are offering small car economy too. The Teana claims 16.04 km/l at cruising speed!

And since THB 1.2 million can buy you a Teana, offering good fuel economy, and luxurious space, what price would the Prius have to be to attract buyers? And will it be possible for Toyota to bring it to market sub THB 1 million? If not what future is there for it here?

You can learn more about the Toyota Prius on Wikipedia here: