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Pimp my Prius
By Bryan Dailey
January 2006

Being the self-proclaimed king of the 405 freeway, driving 32 miles each way to work, I was elated when the National Energy Bill passed that allowed 75,000 owners of Toyota Prius, Honda Civic Hybrid and Honda Insight vehicles in California to apply for stickers that would allow them to drive in the carpool lane without passengers. I had toyed with the idea of purchasing a hybrid car to do my little part to help the environment and chew up the miles without dropping large sums of money at the gas pump. I did the math: the real-world mileage of most hybrid cars is not nearly as high as the EPA states and that the car companies claim in their literature, so my already economical car was a better value and made it hard to justify the often heavy premium that one has to pay to own a hybrid car. However, all of that math went out the door the day that energy bill passed. I had visions of driving to work in the carpool lane, speeding by the throngs of old-fashioned gas-guzzling, non-carpooling drivers who sit idle on Los Angeles’ maze and creep to work at a snail’s pace.

I never even sat in a Prius, but I had seen a few of them on the streets and of course had heard about all of the celebrities who drive them, so I contacted my local Toyota dealer and placed my order completely online. That was the morning that the energy bill had officially passed and, by the day’s end, I was number six on a waiting list that ballooned to over 45 people that evening. Being an audio/video enthusiast, I opted for the fully loaded model that comes with navigation and the six-disc JBL CD changer/cassette deck. On the day that my Prius arrived, I was super-stoked at the concept of sending in my carpool lane sticker application. However, I was underwhelmed when first sitting in the car. Part of the point of the Prius is to have a mid-sized car that has some creature comforts but does not waste weight on things like sunroofs, motorized leather seats and other options that will weigh the car down, thus making it less fuel-efficient. As I was given the tour by my salesperson at the dealership, I began to learn that there is more technology than it first appears, packed into what seemed like a very sparse dashboard, but I wanted more.

What really threw me for a loop at the dealership was the fact that Toyota had done a huge deal with Sirius to make satellite radio an option in their cars, yet the Prius, arguably the most technologically advanced car that Toyota makes, is one of the only cars that Toyota sells that does not have Sirius as a factory option. This baffled me, as I would think that a consumer who has the progressive thinking to try out a technology like a hybrid car would be the same kind of person who is willing to give something like satellite radio a chance. Add to this the fact that many hybrid car owners buy their cars because they have extremely long commutes like I do, and the lack of a Sirius factory option from Toyota was even more disappointing to me.

I am a Sirius disciple and have been enjoying the programming for nearly two years. I envisioned a world where I could get into my Prius and, using the ultra-convenient steering wheel controls, toggle through AM, FM, cassette, CD changer and satellite radio all at the touch of a button. Toyota couldn’t help me make this dream a reality, despite rumors I had heard that the navigation and CD/radio/tape assembly in the Prius is essentially the same as in their Solara, which does have Sirius as an option. I needed to find another way to get Sirius satellite radio in my car and have it integrated with my nav system.

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