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February 23rd, 2008:

Proud To Be A Prius

William Wadsworth – Updated on Feb 23, 2008 – SCMP

Proud To Be A Prius

Bravo to Toyota dealers Crown Motors for supplying three hybrid Priuses for last Sunday’s Hong Kong Marathon. The hybrid drives were “smooth and successful”, says the dealer’s spokesman, Keith Cheng.

“Our Prius needed to stay about 50 metres ahead of the runners,” he says. “The fastest runner can finish the 10km [event] in 30 minutes, so the average speed of the lead car was approximately 20-30km/h, depending on the road conditions.”

Marathon drives require lots of concentration, he says, particularly when full marathon and half marathon runners converged at the Western Harbour Tunnel approach to Hong Kong Island, he says. “The clock cars also experienced a few tough corners in the narrow roads in Causeway Bay, the busiest district on Hong Kong Island.”

The hybrid earned some thumbs-up on the run. The hybrid has gained “wide public acceptance as the official clock car for opening up a world of fresher air to all marathon runners”, Cheng says.

The clock job’s a timely coup for Toyota. The Prius celebrated its 10th anniversary in December and “around 900,000” models have been sold, Toyota says. “The launch of an all-new Prius in 2004 also accelerated sales to the extent that Toyota commissioned a new plant in Changchun, on the mainland, to cope with demand.”

The Prius is also selling well in Hong Kong, with 1,060 on the road by February 1, says Cheng. Emitting just 104 grams of CO2 per kilometre with a claimed combined-cycle fuel consumption figure of 4.3 litres per 100km, the 1.5-litre, hybrid (from HK$223,950) seems to attract locals with a higher income, in managerial jobs and married with children, Cheng says. A Prius owner “also tends to have a higher education background and a sense of environmental protection and fuel efficiency”, he says.

Quite so. A Prius is an admirable boast at cocktail parties, and it has a five-star New Car Assessment Programme safety rating too. So who drives one here? “It’s not our practice to disclose any information of our customers, but Chinese newspapers have reported that actor Daniel Wu [Yin-cho] and Sarah Liao Sau-tung, former environment, transport and works secretary, are driving Priuses,” Cheng says.

Right on. We won’t forget how Liao bought a first-generation Prius way back in 2002.

We also asked Crown Motors if there’s a Prius or hybrid club. After all, Prius whirrers love to discuss their regenerative braking and say how long they’ve run on electric. Not at the moment, Cheng says, “but we would be glad to see one in Hong Kong, and Crown Motors would provide support to a fan club.”

We also suggest a round-the-island charity hybrid car drive, say for Operation Santa Claus, and to show how Green motoring is catching on here. After all, Crown Motors has sold 362 RX400h sports utility vehicles (HK$580,240) and 107 LS600hL limousines (from HK$1,554,000) here. And parallel importers Richburg Motors have sold 125 hybrids, 93 of them Alphards, since 1993. Both dealers are amenable to the idea, but are you? Tell us on

Newcomers at Mazda

Mazda Hong Kong will present three new cars at its Mazda Show in the Atrium at Ocean Terminal this weekend, says dealership spokesman, Kari Chim. From noon today you’ll see the Mazda6 we featured earlier, the 2008 Mazda8, which comes in four variants and costs HK$229,500 after the 30 per cent first registration tax reduction for being an environmentally friendly vehicle, and the new-look Mazda5 seven-seater (pictured, HK$159,990 for the Select; HK$179,990 for the Deluxe).