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Toyota Prius to live on as Prime plug-in hybrid? Australia's pioneering low-emissions car to evolve soon - with Hyundai Ioniq still its target

The Prius Prime plug-in hybrid has been available overseas for years, and it's now all but confirmed for Australia.

A Toyota Australia senior executive has given away more hints about the company's plans for the Prius, saying it could be the car that introduces plug-in hybrids for the brand in Australia.

The latest details come after the announcement last month that the Prius V wagon would be axed globally. This news followed on from the Prius C small hatch being discontinued in 2019. 

So, now the 'original' Prius is the last standing member of the exclusively hybrid family.

While the various versions of the Prius were also sold as plug-in petrol-electric hybrids overseas, their Australian counterparts have only ever been conventional hybrids with batteries that recharged through regenerative braking and a petrol engine.

Toyota Australia blamed a lack of demand for the wagon and small hatch versions being yanked out of dealerships, despite both body-styles outselling the once-popular regular Prius.

You'd be forgiven, then, for thinking that the regular Prius might be next for the firing squad, but vice-president of sales and marketing Sean Hanley says the name – at least – will live on and could even be given new life as the badge worn by Toyota's first Australian plug-in hybrid.

"We are rationalising the model line-up of Prius, but we're not going to drop the nameplate," he said.  

"It will continue and it very well could be the car that we look at for a plug-in hybrid in the future. 

"We don't have any confirmation of that, but it's not a nameplate that will drop. It will just be a nameplate that will have a different role."

The Prius made history in 1997 as the world's first mass-produced hybrid vehicle, but it wasn't until 2001 that the model was launched in Australia. Two decades later and nearly every model in Toyota's line-up has a hybrid variant. This roll-out of hybrid versions of the RAV4, Kluger, Corolla, Camry and Yaris is almost certainly the reason behind the ever decreasing interest in the Prius which pioneered the technology.

"Prius by name is Latin for: 'to go before'," Mr Hanley said. 

"So, it certainly was a leader of the new tech for us at the time, and as the automotive industry has evolved, the electrification strategy is unfolding and our hybrid offering is expanding, the role of Prius has changed. 

"Prius is very dear to my heart because I led the project team that brought that car to market back in October 2001. There's only been one brand with one car that's consistently been in the market for the past 20 years with hybrid tech and that's Toyota, and Prius led that charge for us - no pun intended. So, it has an incredible history in our organisation in terms of our start on this electrification journey."