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Why Isn’t There a Toyota Prius SUV?

The car market is changing, with SUVs becoming increasingly more popular than cars seemingly with each passing week. But one well-known car hasn’t SUV-ified, even though it seems so right: the Toyota Prius. There are three variants of the Toyota Prius, but none are an SUV. Why is that?

The Prius, of course, is Toyota’s small hybrid car that’s been on sale now for 20 years, providing excellent fuel economy to car shoppers who prioritize that over just about anything else. Prius sales have declined quite a bit from their peak, back in 2014, when Toyota was selling 10,000 to 15,000 units a month with no problem. These days, they’re lucky to break 6,000 units a month — and, indeed, haven’t done so since last summer.

One major issue is that gas prices just aren’t all that high, which is a big reason why consumer demand has shifted to SUVs in the first place — and a reason why Toyota is still doing very well, as the automaker has a seat at every table: as sales of the Prius have declined, sales of Toyota’s truck like 4Runner have ramped up considerably. Still, one wonders why Toyota doesn’t do the obvious: why is there no Prius SUV?

Years ago, Toyota created variations to the Prius: a smaller version, a hatchback called the Prius C and a larger version, a hatchback called the Prius V. Both cars sold well initially, but sales have dropped way off — especially for the Prius V, whose sales have dropped from 3,500 units a month in 2014 to 400 or 500 units in recent years. In other words, things aren’t looking good for the Prius V.

So why not replace it with an SUV? One argument against this could be that Toyota already has a hybrid small SUV — the RAV4 Hybrid — which is on hiatus as the RAV4 has been recently redesigned, but should return soon. My response is that I’m well aware of the RAV4 Hybrid, and I wonder if maybe it should’ve been a Prius, rather than a RAV4, as the Prius name is surely stronger than the (admittedly also strong) RAV4 name. Don’t consumers want a Prius SUV?

Unfortunately, we may never find out, as Toyota hasn’t shown any plans for a Prius SUV — even in the face of increasing SUV sales and declining sales for cars and the Prius specifically. But I, for one, think it’d be a good idea — even if it used the Prius’s weird half-egg shape. The Prius name is strong, SUVs are strong, and combining the two seems to make sense.

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