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Former head of Toyota North America and current Chrysler co-President, Jim Press, has come out with a huge bombshell by saying development of the iconic Prius hybrid car was subsidised by the Japanese government.

Published last week in BusinessWeek, Press said that while he was working at Toyota, ” The Japanese government paid for 100 percent of the development of the battery and hybrid system that went into the Toyota Prius.

The statement adds further fuel to an argument that has raged on for the greater part of the last decade – are hybrid cars profitable? In the early days many manufacturers publicly stated that Toyota’s Prius program cannot be profitable, while the Big T insisted otherwise all along.

The Japanese giant quickly dismissed the comment made by Press. Toyota spokesman Paul Nolasco said Toyota has never received public money for developing the battery or any other part of the Prius.

” I can say 100 percent that Toyota received absolutely no support — no money, no grants — from the Japanese government for the development of the Prius,” Nolasco told The Associated Press today in Tokyo.

Even if the statement is true, was it wrong for the Japanese government to fund the Prius program? Toyota now has a huge lead in the hybrid market, which was undeniably helped along by the early development of the Prius. Toyota is also the world’s biggest manufacturer, no doubt helped by its green image.

Toyota has sold over one million Prius cars and sales are only increasing.

The word Prius is a Latin word meaning “to go before”. Toyota picked the name to symbolise the car as a taste of what was to come. Looking back, the first Prius sold in Japan in 1997 and 11 years on, the Prius really was a taste of things to come!




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