Watching the auto industry reposition itself en masse can be an exciting proposition. When hybrids were hot, every manufacturer jumped into bed with another – or three or four, in some cases – to develop expensive technology with questionable returns, all in the hopes of looking 'green'. Or not looking not-green.
Now that electric vehicles are this year's black, it's the same song, different verse: does Tesla really know more about batteries and vehicle design than Toyota? Probably not, but why is the former now working on a battery-electric version of the latter's RAV4 cute-ute? Especially since Toyota successfully offered its own RAV4 EV in the '90s? Probably because Tesla is white-hot in terms of public perception right now, while Toyota definitely needs some help.
So it's no real surprise that Toyota is looking for other ways to maximize the investment on its hybrid range. Other than the Prius, the only other vehicle that's sold in any real numbers is the RX 400h/450h. The LS, GS, HS hybrids have all tanked, while the Camry and Highlander hybrid take-up barely registers. But the Prius still has gold in its name. So why not build a car that uses the money-making Prius, but also shows the world that Toyota's ready to play on this electric-vehicle stage too?
Cynical? Certainly. But every car company needs money to survive, and you have to lose a little to gain a lot.
More: 2012 Toyota Prius PHV (Plug-In Hybrid Vehicle) Review on AutoGuide.com