Toyota Prius Used Car Buying Guide: 2001 – 2003
The first generation of the Toyota Prius introduced to North America was actually the second version of the Prius and was classified as a compact car. Toyota debuted the concept of the hybrid model in 1994. The production version went on sale in Japan in December of 1997. Its styling was done in Toyota’s Calty design studios in Newport Beach, Calif. (near Los Angeles). An updated version of that car, introduced as a 2001 model, offered more power, air-conditioning, and electric power steering, in a nod to American tastes.
One of the things that really helped the sales of that car take off was a $2000 federal tax deduction offered by the United States government in an effort to get more low emission vehicles on the road. As with every hybrid model following it, the original Prius paired a gasoline engine with an electric motor. The 2001 Toyota Prius’ 1.5-liter in-line four-cylinder gasoline engine made 70 hp and 82 foot-pounds of torque. The electric drive motor added another 44 hp to that total, making the maximum potential horsepower 114.
In one way, that Detroit executive was right. That first Prius was something of a science experiment for Toyota; in fact it is said the company subsidized the sale of each unit of the first version of the Prius. However, the company broke even on the sales of the second version and every version of the car since has been wildly profitable. So much so, the Prius is responsible for nearly 72% of Toyota Motor Company's hybrid sales of over 4 million Lexus and Toyota models sold worldwide, since 1997.
In other words, this is indeed the car that started it all.