Toyota Motor Company is considering a complete redesign of its iconic economy car, the Prius. After 15 years in production, with only very subtle design changes as seen in the design evolution pictures below. It would be a big risk for Toyota to drastically change the proven design of the Prius, but it could also open it to a large new consumer base. Since its original debut in 1997, the Prius has epitomized the movement towards environmentally friendly hybrid vehicles that run on both gasoline and electricity. The Prius has experienced record sales in 2012, with sales increasing 60 percent over last year. The main driving factor for the possible shift to a new design is to move away from the awkward shell type platform that has reigned since its initial debut. Although the shell is an incredibly aerodynamic style, it has traditionally been seen as something of a “geek mobile” and was often ostracized by most car enthusiasts. By shifting to a more generally appreciated design, Toyota would see its target market grow substantially, since most car buyers are always looking for the best mix of fuel economy and design appeal.
It is slightly surprising that Toyota is considering such a drastic redesign, since it is currently in the growth stage of the product life cycle. As stated in class, the growth stage is when a manufacturer needs to focus on competitive product improvements, which are needed to help it stay current with the recent introduction of new competitors such as Ford, and the continuing rivalry with Honda. However, Toyota Prius has managed to follow one characteristic of the product life cycle, and that is to enhance distribution and capacity. It has managed to increase capacity from only a few thousand units in its initial introduction, to nearly 700,000 through only the first 9 months of this year. By designing a new generation of Prius to appeal to more style conscious consumers, Toyota may end up gouging its current market, since many of the current buyers appreciate the iconic shell shape. At this point it is impossible to predict the exact fate of the Prius, since the new design has yet to be finalized. However the question arises of what possible design attributes can Toyota maintain from the current model to retain current customers, and what can they change to help attract new buyers?