Prius Changed the World: How to Make a Value Shift and New Hierarchy


Toyota Prius was just in time for the 21st century

Do you know the animation movie, Astro Boy? It was released in Hollywood in 2009, though it wasn’t a big hit. The origin of the movie is a Japanese classic comic book. The story was set in the future (the 21st century, the future as of 50’s). I’m sure almost all the Japanese people older than me (around 40 years old) can sing the opening song.

Such a popular but old comic book character was used in a car commercial in 1997. Guess what car. It was Toyota Prius, with a slogan: “Just in time for the 21st century.” The commercial was great to impress many people older than driving age including me. Watching the commercial, we clearly realized the gap between the coming 21st century and the one we dreamed of when we were kids.

What Toyota Prius changed

Indeed, Prius can neither fly in the sky nor transform to a robot, but I believe it drastically changed the times. In the pre-Prius era, the hierarchy of cars was clear and firm. The bigger, faster, or more expensive, the better. For example, you can arrogantly drive Mercedes-Benz C class in small towns but not in Tokyo because there are a lot of higher-end models like E and S class. Prius is a small sedan, generally categorized in a lower class from its size and price, but I think it was moved out of the ordinary car hierarchy. One of the impressive examples is the Academy Awards presentations back then. Some Hollywood stars drove Prius to the venue, instead of emerging from a huge limo.

New hierarchy in the furniture industry

As environmental awareness increased, people’s values were shifted, and the eco-friendly car broke the conventional hierarchy, even partially. In the furniture industry, we, too, are tied to a hierarchy. It may not be so clear and firm rather than the one in the car industry, but large brands with plenty of funds for promotion occupy the top layer. With the increasing environmental awareness, I expect the same value shift will happen in the furniture industry, and Hollywood stars may use our furniture in the future.

Shungo Ijima

He is travelling around the world. His passion is to explain Japan to the world, from the unique viewpoint accumulated through his career: overseas posting, MBA holder, former official of the Ministry of Finance.

Photo Credit: