“I'm Driving a Hybrid. And I Want the World to Know It.”

ToyotaLeaf.jpgWhen 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.”