Believe it or not, there was a time when people in and out of the auto industry had their doubts as to whether hybrid cars would catch on with the public. The supposedly safe method of thought went something along the lines of, "Let's make it look as normal as possible on the outside and pray people will buy it."
After all, Honda's early foray into the hybrid market with the bullet-shaped, rear wheel-skirted Insight model was met with a less-than-enthusiastic consumer response. Even so, automakers dutifully churned out hybrid gasoline-electric versions of their best-sellers, including the Ford Escape SUV, the Honda Civic and Accord and several others. With the exception of an unobtrusive "hybrid" badge here and there, you could barely tell from the outside that anything was different underneath.
However, the second-generation Toyota Prius, introduced in 2003, took the opposite approach. It screamed, "Look at me, I'm green!" With its ovoid body, silent running in electric mode and futuristic mileage display inside, the Toyota Prius was definitely making a statement. And making no apologies, either. Environmentalists loved it. Then as whipsawing gasoline prices began seriously hurting average Americans' pocketbooks in the mid- to late- part of the decade, the general public began to fall in love with it as well.
People wanted to know, how would Toyota follow up such a winner?
Speculation began to center on Toyota's Hybrid X, a radically designed sedan that looks vaguely like a squished and more streamlined Prius. The Hybrid X concept vehicle debuted to the public at the 2007 Geneva International Motor Show. Stuffed with technology meant to make driving more relaxing and environmentally guilt-free, the Hybrid X had observers on the edge of their seats: Would this be the next-generation Prius? Would its "Hybrid Synergy Drive" gasoline-electric hybrid technology make as huge a leap forward as the interior and exterior design obviously had?