Without fanfare or an exact date, a collective automotive epiphany took place a decade ago. Nearly every major carmaker was in on it, except for Toyota. The Japanese manufacturer had its own environmental awakening 17 years ago when it introduced its first hybrid car.
Toyota unveiled its gas-electric engine in Japan in 1997, and then brought it to the U.S. market in 2000. It wasn’t the first electric or hybrid car available in the U.S.; Honda introduced the Insight seven months earlier but in limited supply. But the Toyota Prius was the first mass-produced gasoline-electric hybrid car, and the auto industry hasn’t been the same since.
Combining the increasing influence of the environmental movement, pending federal regulations for increased fuel efficiency and wishful thinking for diminishing reliance on foreign fuel, the rest of auto industry now gets it. The “greening of the mainstream” means one thing to automakers—game on.