By Drew Johnson
Monday, Nov 5th, 2012 @ 9:13 am
 

Toyota could change the overall look of its next-generation Prius in order to widen the appeal of the hybrid, a new report finds. The Prius has maintained a wedge-like shape since the second-generation of the car debuted in 2003.

"There's an undercurrent among most people that they're ready for a new Prius look," Chris Hostetter, Toyota's U.S. group vice president for strategic planning, told Bloomberg. "Maybe our architecture has been a little bit similar for the last two generations."

Changing the Prius' iconic shape could be a major risk for Toyota. Part of the Prius' allure is that its unique wedge shape immediately identifies the car as a hybrid, which has been an important part of its sales success.

Through the first nine months of the year Toyota has sold more than 690,000 units of the Prius (including the standard Prius, the larger Prius v, the compact Prius c and the Prius plug-in) worldwide, smashing the car's full-year sales record. The Prius' best sales year to date was in 2010 when Toyota sold 509,399 units of the Prius.

However, Toyota believes there are even more sales to be had if Prius is given a more broad appealing look. Toyota is still reviewing clay models of the next-gen car, but the final product promises to be much different than today's Prius.

"We are emboldened to make a much different, much better Prius," Hostetter said. "The consequences of that so far have been, I would say, dramatic."

And, thanks to a recent push by Toyota president Akio Toyoda, Hostetter says the next-generation Prius will boast better driving "dynamics." Akio has made it a priority to make all Toyota vehicles more exciting to drive.

There is no official word on when the next-generation Prius will bow, but Hostetter says the car will arrive in "a little more than a year."