Cars that start a revolution are rare in the automotive industry, and often controversial. That is until they become so popular that it becomes an industry standard. For instance the unusual Volkswagen Beetle achieved worldwide cult status as an inexpensive and reliable car but had to fight off the naysayers. GM tried to follow up with their own air-cooled version with the disappointing Corvair. The Ford Mustang was the undisputed King of Horsepower and all around design greatness as the first pony car. It paved the way for the Camaro and Dodge Challenger.
The utilitarian Jeep Cherokee made its mark as the first true cross over SUV which has since been copied endlessly. And finally the Plymouth Voyager was the genius family car that spoke to the growing families of the baby boomer generation.
All these cars represent true historic ground breakers. Not only were they first to market with their original designs but they also cleared the path for other manufacturers to follow, thereby creating a revolution. There are others of course, but needless to say, it takes a lot of guts to achieve this level of glory.
Welcome to that list the car that started the hybrid movement, the archetypal green-machine:
The Toyota Prius.
When it comes to Hybrids, the Prius stands alone. Simply put, Toyota produced the most advanced expression of mass mobility since the Model T. In designing the Prius, Toyota had effectively doubled the miles per gallon on the average commuter car. Even if you do not currently own a Prius, I can guarantee that the efficiency technology that was refined by Toyota is showing up in the car you are driving today, regardless of make or model. I call that “Trickle Down Autonomics”.
Back in the year 2000, American car manufacturers saw the Hybrid movement as a fad, a flash in the pan. The film “Who Killed the Electric Car” was in the early stages of production. In fact, the Prius showed up on American shores just as the behemoth Hummer was starting to roll off the General Motors assembly line as the best car for men with the smallest of trouser snakes. Who knows what the execs at GM were thinking, but it took all but ten short years for the Hummer to blossom and then quickly die on a very expensive vine. In 2010 faithful shareholders got the short end of the stick when GM declared itself bankrupt.
GM clearly did not have their fingers on the pulse of the world. It took GM ten more long years (a lifetime in car design) to finally enter the market with their own version of an ultra-efficient family car, aptly named the Volt. By that time Toyota already had cornered the hybrid market and continues today to reap the lion’s share of hybrid sales.
Back when Detroit was playing the big macho card, Toyota was investing heavily in Hybrid technology. To this day Toyota owns over 2,100 patents on the Hybrid system. They had made such incredible strides that by the time the likes of Ford, BMW and Nissan finally woke up, they were forced to seek hybrid licensing technology from Toyota. A good example of this was the early Ford Escape Hybrids which had the Toyota Synergy drive system installed. It is no secret that the Escape was one of the most dependable cars built by Ford. Go figure.
In the end, Toyota made it safe for all the other manufactures to enter the field. The Prius was a simple and efficient car with NASA grade technology that showed the world an ultra-high efficiency car could do everything that any other car could do in terms of moving people around without sacrificing any creature comforts or breaking the bank.
But in classic fashion Toyota had one more ace up their automotive sleeve. Reliability. Getting almost 50 miles per gallon was (and still is) the standard for fuel economy. Even though the Prius is cutting edge in so many ways, it is utterly, convincingly and undeniably reliable. Just how reliable you ask? It is said that over 90% of all Prius’s are still on the road today. Put that together with all the gas you will save by buying a used one and you will have yourself a true game changer right smack dab in your own driveway.
But wait you say! What about the batteries?
Those Nickel Metal Hydride batteries (and the special cooling system that keeps the thermal fluctuations at a minimum) have proven beyond a doubt that they are built to last beyond the life expectancy of the rest of the car. That in itself is a tall achievement.
The motto of the Prius should be “Built first, built to last”.
Go out and buy yourself one or two. Don’t forget to make sure you bring along someone like me who can help you determine if the Prius that you are thinking about buying has been lovingly cared for and will reliably provide you with a low carbon footprint well into the future. Is the Prius a good used car? You bet. It has all the makings of a truly great car.
Special mention to the iconic Chevrolet Corvette which started the American sports car movement, the much loved original Mini Cooper with a transverse mounted engine with front wheel drive, and finally the best selling car of all time: the uber-reliable Toyota Corolla (across 10 generations).
Greg Macke- Your Car Angel
Greg Macke is a car blogger and author of “My 7 Secrets to Buying a High Quality Used Car”. He is a professional car buyer and consumer advocate working closely in the industry to improve the buyer’s experience. His high quality car buying tutorials offer help to the car buying public. – See more at: http://yourcarangel.com/
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