When Toyota launched the Prius in the U.S. in late 2000, critics derided the car’s unusual design as “just plain ugly.”
As it turns out, the design is a big reason that Prius is No. 1, despite heady competition from Honda and others. That’s because people who drive a Prius want the world to know that they are driving a hybrid. It makes a statement about them.
Newsweek calls it “Prius Envy” in a in article this week. Here’s an enlightening excerpt:
Peter Kessner, a devout environmentalist, bought a Honda Civic hybrid four years ago to show everyone that he wants to save the planet. The only problem: no one noticed, since, other than the hybrid badge on the trunk, it looked like a regular Civic. So he traded it in for a Toyota Prius. Suddenly, strangers began stopping him on the street to ask about his hybrid, with its space-age styling and miserly mileage.
“That’s a big part of why I bought the Prius,” says the Floral Park, N.Y., retiree. “It opens up conversations, and I push my theory that we’ve got to do our best to conserve.” The Honda, on the other hand, didn’t deliver what Kessner craved: green street cred. “If I’m driving a hybrid,” he says, “I want people to know it.”
The story mirrors a similar article in The New York Times in July which concluded: “The Prius has become, in a sense, the four-wheel equivalent of those popular rubber ‘issue bracelets’ in yellow and other colors—it shows the world that its owner cares.”