Could Toyota’s shelved A-BAT hybrid compact pickup truck concept return as a member of Toyota’s newly announced Prius vehicle family? Something similar could happen, according to Bob Carter, group vice president and general manager of Toyota Division at Toyota Motor Sales USA.
Toyota announced its new Prius family of vehicles today at the 2011 North American International Auto Show in Detroit. In addition to the current Prius hatchback and Prius plug-in hybrid, the all-new larger Prius V (the V stands for “versatility”) and the sporty Prius C concept vehicle were shown.
“Prius means high mpg, low environment impact,” said Carter, adding that a pickup truck could join the family “possibly, if it meets the criteria. It’s not off the table, but nothing is decided at this point.”
The Advanced Breakthrough Aero Truck as an all-new take on Toyota’s original compact pickup truck roots in the U.S. The A-BAT featured a hybrid powertrain, unibody construction and a small footprint for maneuverability and weight savings. A cab-forward passenger compartment maximized rear cargo space in the A-BAT's compact packaging.
Toyota toward building a production version of the A-BAT in 2009 because of a number of market uncertainties at the time, Carter said.
If a Prius pickup were developed, it would slot under the current Toyota Tacoma and not replace it because some truck buyers still have a need for a smaller truck with traditional truck capability, Carter said.
“The pickup truck has been very volatile over the past few years,” Carter said. “We’re trying to understand what pickup truck consumers are going to want in the future. Right now with the Tacoma in the compact truck market, we have nearly a 45 percent market share. The consumer says for that truck market that they still want a rugged body-on-frame.”
But a hybrid small truck is still an opportunity worth exploring.
“We’re open and studying it,” Carter said.