All-wheel drive Toyota Prius likely not U.S.-bound

Toyota doesn\'t believe there is enough demand from buyers in the U.S. to develop an all-wheel drive model for our market.

A new report finds the all-wheel drive version of the fourth-generation Toyota Prius is unlikely to make the trip to the United States.

According to trade journal Automotive News, Toyota doesn't believe there is enough demand from buyers in the U.S. to justify investing in the development of an all-wheel drive model suited to our market. Company execs point out the Prius is a hot seller in states like California, where buyers generally don't need the additional traction provided by all-wheel drive, and it's not very popular in colder regions like the northeast.

In Japan, Toyota predicts that anywhere between 10 and 20 percent of the roughly 144,000 units of the Prius it expects to sell each year will be fitted with the E-Four all-wheel drive system.

Toyota also explains it's worried about how well the all-wheel drive system will withstand extremely cold temperatures. E-Four was tested in northern Japan, a region that's routinely slammed with snow but where the thermometer rarely dips to extreme lows. It's not designed to function in places like Mount Pleasant, Michigan, where the average temperature in January is just above 13 degrees.

Although the odds seem to be stacked against the Prius E-Four, Toyota engineer Yoshihiro Ikushima told Automotive News that a final decision on whether to sell it here hasn't been made.

Photos by Byron Hurd and Toyota.

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