In 1994, Toyota began the task of creating the Prius, their first environmentally-friendly, fuel-efficient vehicle. Although it was originally designed as a compact sedan, it is a mid-sized hatchback that is a full hybrid, electric vehicle. When it hit the Japanese market in 1997, it was the world's first hybrid that was being mass-produced and in 2001 it was introduced on a global scale. With Japan and North America being the largest markets, Toyota Prius cars are now being sold in 70 countries. Between May of 2008 and September of 2010, Toyota Prius sales grew from one million to two million units worldwide.
There have been three generations manufactured to date. The first generation (1997-2003) was the XW10, the second generation (2003-09) was the XW20, and the current generation (2009-present) is the XW30. Toyota is currently working on a PHEV (plug-in hybrid) with 600 test vehicles involved in a global demonstration during 2009 in Australia, Canada, China, Europe, Japan, New Zealand, and the US. Toyota Prius sales should begin in the second quarter of 2012 in the US. Although there are no clear statistics on secondhand Toyota Prius sales, as of April 2011 there have been one million sold in the US.
Based on smog-forming, toxic emissions, CARB (California Air Resources Board) and the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) have rated the Prius as the "cleanest" vehicle on the road in the US. Toyota Prius cars have won numerous awards including such prestigious ones as Car of the Year (Motor Trend - 2004), International Engine of the Year (2004), Ten Best List (Car and Driver Magazine - 2004), European Car of the Year (2005), and Most Dependable Compact Car (JD Power and Associates - 2008). Additionally, in 2008 it was nominated in the UK for the Car of the Year Awards (Top Green Car Award - WhatGreenCar.com).