The car every human brain in the developed world forms a mental image of whenever the word “hybrid” is spoken in reference to an automobile, the Toyota Prius, while not the first hybrid on the market (Honda’s Insight owns that honor), is easily the most popular. In every city, in every town, Toyota’s ubiquitous gasoline electric auto can be found. Ironically dismissed as a mere “science project” by a noted Detroit automotive executive when it was introduced, Prius has instead spawned an entirely new automotive segment.
The 2001 model year saw the introduction of the Prius to the North American market. However, Toyota, before introducing an untried vehicle into the world's largest automotive marketplace sold the car for three years in Japan before exporting a revised version to the United States. Today, the Prius is sold in over 70 countries around the world. By 2008, one million of the omnipresent hybrid models had been sold worldwide. By 2010, two million had been sold. As of February 2012, 2.5 million Toyota Prius models had found owners, with one million of those in the United States.
Not content to rest on its hybrid laurels, Toyota has actively expanded the Prius line. There is a standard hatchback version, an extended length hatchback version, a subcompact hatchback version, and a plug-in version of the world's most popular hybrid model. Because of this, a new naming nomenclature has been introduced. The standard Prius is now known as Prius Lift Back, the extended hatchback version is known as Prius v, the subcompact is known as Prius c, and the plug-in is referred to as the Toyota Prius Plug-in Hybrid.
The Prius takes its name from a Latin word meaning "before". Toyota representatives say the name was chosen because the Prius was launched before environmental awareness became a mainstream social issue. And, while that is debatable, there have been three generations of the Toyota’s first hybrid sold in North America since the Prius was introduced here in 2000 as a 2001 model.