Toyota Motor Corp. introduces the gasoline-electric hybrid Prius to the media in Tokyo on Oct. 14, 1997.
It is considered the first mass-produced hybrid vehicle.
Responding to concerns about the environment, Toyota launched a project in spring 1993 to create a car with more than twice the fuel economy of vehicles in the same class, reduce carbon dioxide emissions, accommodate five adults and provide maximum cabin space in a compact design.
The Clinton administration in 1993 had created the Partnership for a New Generation of Vehicles with the U.S. Council for Automotive Research and numerous universities, national labs, federal agencies and suppliers. The goal: Develop 80-mpg concept vehicles by 1999 and production-feasible prototypes by 2004.
While no viable prototypes emerged, General Motors' Precept did achieve 90 mpg on diesel fuel.
Toyota's exclusion from the PNGV program as a Japanese company prompted Chairman Eiji Toyoda to explore more efficient automobiles. His target: a car with fuel economy of 47.5 mpg, a little more than 50 percent better than what the Corolla, Toyota's popular small car, achieved at the time.