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11/06/2009 Toyota and Apple: Two P's in an iPod?

Toyota and Apple have something in common. Both the Prius and the iPhone (and the iPod before it) appeal to people who like high tech, who want to feel as if they're a little ahead of the curve and who are ready to embrace products that change behavior.

The iPhone is clearly one of these products. It's changed how we use and what we expect from mobile phones (and mobile carriers). It's created a completely new Apps sector, one that other companies have rushed to copy. It is a brilliant product.

The Prius is also one of those products. It's slowly changing our expectations of cars. The car itself is one of the first high tech automobiles available and it should usher in a completely new wave of electric cars. It's changing the way we drive now and in the future.

You'd think that the Prius and the iPhone is a match made in heaven. Actually, Toyota does believe this. They've created an iPhone app about the Prius. Recently they launched an innovative interactive campaign using AR and Times Square billboards to connect iPhone users with the Prius. Toyota realizes that people who own iPhones should feel the same attraction to the Prius. And they're probably right.

What's wrong, though, is that unless you buy an upper-end Prius (Prius IV or V) there's no built in support to listen to and integrate iTunes in the car's system. There is an AUX connector in the car, but you have to buy a 3.5 mm audio cable, and even then, you can't control your iTunes through the stereo.

You can purchase an iPod integration kit for $250, but that's more than some iPhones cost. Or you can opt for the stereo/GPS upgrade for $1,400 but again, it's a lot to pay for listening to your own music. This Prius/iPod integration should be a standard feature, not an add-on.

Toyota, you have an outstanding product in the Prius. It's a product Apple and iPhone users should go crazy for. But if you're going to target and seduce this audience, you better make sure you deliver the goods. Otherwise they'll steam up the car windows but in the wrong way.


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