2017 Prius Prime. Image source: Toyota.

What happened?
At the New York auto show yesterday, Toyota (NYSE:TM) unveiled the new 2017 Prius Prime. The new plug-in hybrid is even more efficient than the company's popular Prius hatchback, and the Prius Prime is expected to achieve an estimate 120 MPGe, a 26% improvement.

That performance improvement is thanks to a larger 8.8 kWh battery, capable of driving 22 miles in all-electric mode, combined with an improved hybrid system. Toyota estimates that consumers will be able to drive for 600 miles before filling up the 11.3-gallon tank.

The new vehicle will even feature an optional 11.6-inch vertical touchscreen display that can be used for multimedia, navigation, and vehicle controls.

Does it matter?
The Prius remains a category-defining vehicle for Toyota, while also setting the brand apart and appealing to environmentalists. Toyota sold nearly 185,000 Prius vehicles in the U.S. last year, down 11% from 2014 as low gas prices have hurt hybrid sales.

However, plug-in hybrids have not fared well in the U.S. market as a product category (including the recently discontinued Prius plug-in hybrid), although there are a handful of successful models like General Motors' Chevy Volt.

Toyota says that the 2017 Prius Prime will be available in the U.S. later this year.

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