Now that my participation in the two month Prius Challenge is at an end, I thought I’d capture some of my thoughts about the whole endeavor. It was very educational, and not just about the car.
Free can be a tough sell
When they approached me about participating, I was a bit confused. I don’t normally talk about cars, and haven’t done any major product evaluations of any kind. I was honestly puzzled how my name came up at all. But after noodling on it for a bit I signed up for two main reasons:
The first was selfish – it was a fun idea, I already liked the Prius, and I wanted to check out the new models. My wife’s main car has been a Prius for five years, and she loves it. We were in the market for a new car and thought this would really beat a simple test drive. Plus I’m fascinated at how social promotions like this work (i.e. never as planned), and I love meeting new people, so it really seemed like an entertaining time.
The second reason was more altruistic (sort of). Since this was an entirely local promotion I thought it would be a great chance for someone I know to win a free car. There were no strings to this program, no hoops to jump through, and you didn’t have to flood your own channel with Toyota Prius info to enter. Just a click and few pictures and you would have a really good chance to win. And I would really love that winner to be someone I know.
The weird thing was, people wouldn’t enter. I fielded tons of questions asking “what’s the catch,” and they all seemed more dubious when I told them there wasn’t one. I think if you spend enough time online you get a certain level of BS-filter about promotions, and this was triggering it. Even people who trusted me thought I had to be leaving something out. It just seemed… weird.
So I increased my noise level about it, and tried to make it clear how easy it was, and how good the odds were. That didn’t go over so well, and I was told I was being spammy. Normally I have a really good feel for that, so I was surprised. Looking at it objectively, my Prius comments were still a minor part of what I was saying, but subjectively it was such an out of place topic that it stood out.
I backed off and tone things down. People still asked me about it in person, and I gave away tons of info cards on how to enter the contest, but I made sure that Prius entries (other than this one) had the car as only part of the larger post. This worked a lot better, and is what I should have been doing from the start. I just got off track because the “Disbelief Factor” I ran into.
Is the Prius a good car?
I’m still getting asked “what I really think” about the Prius. I’ve been pretty candid, but to put it all in one spot, here’s my take on the Prius models I drove.
Third Generation Prius is a champ
The first Prius I drove was their “classic Prius” model in bright red. It was a great car, and I really enjoyed driving it. It handled solidly, and had a lot more power than I expected. The interior, dashboard, performance, and pretty much everything else was much nicer than the 2007 model we currently own.
We got 50+ mpg driving around Phoenix, and it worked like a champ on our road trip up through Prescott, Sedona, and Flagstaff. Gas mileage on the freeway trip dropped to about 40 mpg, but the Prius is made to do better in the city.
Bottom line, I would honestly recommend this car to someone seriously looking at hybrids or concerned about fuel economy. If we were ready to replace my wife’s Prius (it’s still running great!) we would look at getting a new model. There’s a lot of pretentious posturing and weird hype associated with the Prius, but it really is a solid car. That’s part of why it has sold like it has.
The Prius v wagon – not so much
Halfway through the challenge I switched models so I could see the difference, and the difference was substantial. The Prius v is their station-wagon-like version, and has a lot more room for passengers and cargo. Unfortunately, that’s almost the end of what I can say nice about this vehicle.
If you fold the back seats down, they don’t come close to touching the front seats to make a flat surface. We tried to transport our three dogs in it, and if we braked too hard, ZWOOP!, one of our dogs would tumble down into the footwell in the back seat and have trouble getting up. The car also didn’t seem to have as much power as the regular Prius, and was a lot noiser in acceleration. The dashboard also has all the main gauges, like speed, in the center of the console… not in front of the driver. It’s just weird. Even the stereo in this thing refused to play nice with my iPhone and I finally gave up on the Bluetooth and just used a stereo cable.
After a week with the Prius v I wanted the regular model back. The regular Prius has lots of carrying capacity as it is, so I would send anyone that direction over the Prius v.
Final thoughts on the Prius Challenge
The whole thing was fun, and I’m glad I participated, but it could have been a lot more engaging and effective.
Legal issues and overhead took some of the fun out of what was originally intended (there wasn’t even a “challenge” anymore by the time it started), and I wish entering hadn’t been as tied to Facebook as it was.
The rest of the Prius Challenge team was fantastic, and I’m glad I got to work with them. They all know their kung-fu really well, and watching their different approaches to this project was fascinating.
Kudos to the Valley Toyota Dealers for giving the Prius Challenge a try and putting a car on the line. I wouldn’t have agreed to participate if it was a national promotion, but keeping it local meant people had a much greater chance of winning, and made the whole event more personal. I just wish the Dealers had been more engaged. Not only were we not allowed to mention any of them by name (Seriously!), but even though we were sending people to the dealers to get their picture taken, none of the sales people there knew about the Prius Challenge. I hope they consider trying something like this again, but next time get fully engaged.
The people running the Prius Challenge at Cramer-Krasselt were great to work with, and had a helluva time wrangling the Prius Team, managing the Toyota Dealers, and keeping everything plowing along. They listened to endless silly ideas from me and accommodated everywhere they could. I appreciate the opportunity to be a part of the Prius Challenge.
Now I am Priusless, and am hoping someone locally decides to do a Ferrari Challenge and gives me a call. Until then, I’m waiting for the winner to be drawn for the Prius c. If you entered, good luck!