By on June 10, 2007

readout.jpgThe Toyota Prius hybrid has been the high-mileage low-emissions darling of the chattering classes and their Hollywood pals for some time. Now, suddenly, sales have shot up, and it seems that the Prius is about to become a mainstream motor. While the little eco-warrior that could still doesn't account for a significant fraction of Ford F-150 sales, the question remains: is the Prius' recent sales surge a fluke?

In May '06, Toyota's North American operations sold 8103 Prii. That summer, the hybrid sedan's sales spiked in tandem with rising gas prices. In July and August, dealers sold over 11k units per month. In September, sales dropped back down to 10,492.

For the next four months, Prius sales retreated to the eights and nines. In truth, these fluctuations were minor variations on a basic trend: the Toyota Prius had flat-lined.  

In February, Toyota took action. They rolled-out a raft of special deals. New York customers could lease a Prius for as little as $219 a month. In Michigan, Ohio and Kentucky, shoppers could finance the hybrid for 3.9 percent for 36 months.

ToMoCo also gambled that the increased incentives would yield sales. They ramped up production in Japan and eliminated dealer backlog.

The afterburners were lit.

In February, the Prius beat its previous year's high water mark by 1050 units (12,227 vs. 11,177). In March sales took off. Some 19,156 Prii found new owners, up 6929 units from the previous month's total.

In April, Toyota seized the day. They launched their first national ad campaign for the Prius and offered $600 to $2k cash back on specific option packages. The result: 13,056 units. In May, the Prius finally achieved low earth orbit: 24,009 sales.

To put these numbers into context, consider the fate of the Toyota Highlander Hybrid. In both relative and absolute terms, the gas-electric soft-roader has done– and continues to do– nothing. This year's sales have yet to top the results achieved last April and May (3768 and 3755).

By the same token, last July and August, the Toyota Camry hybrid's sales peaked at 5023 (in lockstep with the Prius' fortunes). And then… niente. Although the Camry hybrid also experienced a record-setting surge in May (5144), it was nothing to write home about.

The Ford Escape hybrid peaked last April, at 3039. It's been downhill from there. January was a representative low point, accounting for just 1039 units. In May– just as the Prius hit its attention-getting 24k+ mark– Ford struggled to offload 2680 Escape Hybrids.

The Honda Civic hybrids' sales parallel the Escape hybrid's fate. The gas-electric Civic has yet to beat its April '06 peak of 3087 units. As for the the soon-to-be-discontinued Honda Accord Hybrid, the model never sold more than 783 units per month.

The easy analysis: rising gas prices and lowered sticker prices released a wave of pent-up demand for Toyota's gas-electric model. While there's more than a modicum of truth to that conclusion, it's also clear the Prius' recent success wasn't a case of a rising tide lifting all hybrid-powered boats.

In retrospect, it's obvious that the Prius' achievement is a branding-related success. When gas prices spiked, America's fuel efficiency-challenged drivers didn't want "a" hybrid; they wanted "the" hybrid. On the downside, this may mean that some of the Prius' sales gains were fashion-related. 

Many of May's $20k-ish Prii may also have been purchased as a third car for a two-car family. If it's a large chunk of the total, that could bode badly for the gas-electric automobile's longer term prospects; there are only so many families wealthy enough to park a spare gas guzzler on their driveway. 

That said, it's unlikely that the Prius is about to fall back into its previous sales torpor. For one thing, the model has passed a crucial price/image-related tipping point. For another, Toyota has learned a valuable lesson: even a PC "halo car" isn't immune from the market-driven price calculations affecting its other models.

In other words, anything will sell at the right price. No matter how hot the demand for the new, even more fuel efficient Prius, there's no way Toyota's going to under-produce and over-price Prius v3. Look for the sales surge to continue.

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70 Comments on “The Toyota Prius Tips In at the Tipping Point...”


  • avatar

    I absolutely look forward to the Prius to continue to confound the naysayers. Simply put it is by far the most fuel efficient real world car available.

    As long as one does not rush out to buy a Prius when one does not actually not need a new car then it is virtually impossible not to save money.

    As long someone is definitely going to buy a new car at this given point in time no matter what and as long as they are going to spend approximately x dollars, then as long as the prius is approximately X dollars and fits the car buyers needs then they are going to save money on gas.

    The only way you wouldn’t save money is if you were going to be spending considerably less than x dollars for an alternative smaller and cheaper subcompact.

  • avatar

    What’s weird to me about the whole “hybrid” phenomenon is that these cars are gasoline-powered. Yes, I understand they are more efficient than non-hybrids, but they are still gasoline-powered. I have no quibble with more efficient. But what we (the world) really need is cars which are not gasoline powered at all. And by making it seem that the problem is solved, hybrids are actually part of the problem, not the solution.

  • avatar

    ole, I drive a VW that is powered by vegetable oil. Do I get a prize for that? ;)

    –chuck

  • avatar
    thx_zetec

    Farago

    Good article but . . .

    You call the Prius “the little eco-warrior that could “. The “little” seems like a back-handed compliment – the stereotype that efficiency can only be obtained with tiny cars. The prius is actually very roomy for four, with a back seat a cut above a Yaris or Cobalt. And its a hatchback, so it is fairly practical (Where can I get an Accord or Civid hatchback?). We live in an age when an “average” family car is 5,600 SUV I guess.

    Not sure why you think the Prius “$20k-ish Prii were purchased as a third car for a two-car family”. 20k-ish is average price, and again this is roomy, reliable, practical car – not a “toy”. I of two owners and these are primary cars for either husband or wife.

    If you sell something cheap enough someone will buy it . . . sure. If GM sold 1971 Vegas for 10 bucks they could sell millions, they would just go broke doing it. Toyota is financially driven, looks like they’re plan is to sell people a car they want, at a price they will pay, and make money doing it.

    Finally, as an engineer I am skeptical that Prius success is mostly due to “brand”. Give them credit for good engineering. Prius combines very good ecomomy with very useful package with Toyota reliability (important for risky new technology). Some hybrids are “big mac with diet coke” designs – they are too big, or have v6’s so there is no real point to buying them.

  • avatar
    thx_zetec

    ole

    I don’t understand your logic. We should ignore better alternatives unless something is perfect?

    Penicillin – what a crock. If a drug doesn’t make you immortal it is a scam, “part of the problem”.

    Seat belts? They reduce but don’t eliminate fatalities. They are actually dangerous.

    Radial tyres? They don’t last forever. Converting from bias ply was big mistake.

    The point of engineering is not to find a perfect solution – this is unrealistic. They point is to improve technology by continually adopting better options. Small improvement or big improvement – if it is better it is better (and 45 mpg is hardly a small improvement)

  • avatar
    26theone

    The Prius is a fantastic car. Not tiny and odd like the Honda Insight but a real, midsize liveable vehicle. The great thing about Toyota is they use their profits wisely. Designing the Prius engine must have been incredibly expensive.

    Now if only the oil companies were so wise to spend a big portion of their current profits on alternative fuel exploration.

  • avatar
    AGR

    Good insight in what Toyota is doing with the Prius.

    From a potential shaky start with the Prius, Toyota is slowly confirming itself as the Hybrid Master when it comes to cars.

    The Prius becomes an Halo car, in the same fashion as supercar cars are / were halo cars for various manufacturers.

    Its possible that a Prius is the 3rd commuter car, but its gaining momentum to become the 2nd or even 1st car within other families. If the Hollywood literati started raising the level of awareness for the Prius, the extensive coverage of climate change, global warming, government credit for certain vehicles is almost free advertising for the Prius.

    Could it be that the Prius is visualised as the 1/2 step on the way to a full EV commuter car.

  • avatar
    nilk

    I think the Prius is successful because its the only hybrid vehicle that:

    1) Gets excellent fuel economy (and low emissions)
    2) Is spacious in both passenger and cargo capabilities
    3) Can accelerate quick enough

    All the sedans that have a battery in the trunk don’t effectively use space. Honda needs to get with the program and release a Civic Hybrid hatchback. Also, the Camry Hybrid would be much better as a wagon.

    May people don’t want SUV’s anymore. They don’t want sedans either. Fuel-efficient wagons and hatchbacks are what many of us need (hybrid or not). Hopefully more manufacturers will bring back these options in the U.S. It’s too bad that SUV’s are so profitable for them.

  • avatar
    maxrent

    IMO, I think we are seeing a turning of a corner that I always thought(hoped) would come: the mainstreaming of hybrid technology. Hybrid technology will be like front disc brakes or fuel injection, etc. The tech will keep improving/evolving, better battery performance/life, use of alternative fuels combined with batteries. Then will we see real mileage gains, 60mpg and upward.
    Why is the Prius hyped as a the “first” hybrid, “the” hybrid, or the “only” hybrid when Honda has already been there, done that… A CAR AHEAD… with Insight and now the recently discontinued “performance” Accord which just happened to be a hybrid (with a V6)! Toyota really stole Honda’s thunder in this area.

  • avatar
    maxrent

    Whoops…. I got faragoed. Should have just referred you to Herr Niedermeyer’s recent article:

    https://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=3922

  • avatar
    wsn

    ole:
    June 10th, 2007 at 12:53 pm

    What’s weird to me about the whole “hybrid” phenomenon is that these cars are gasoline-powered. Yes, I understand they are more efficient than non-hybrids, but they are still gasoline-powered. I have no quibble with more efficient. But what we (the world) really need is cars which are not gasoline powered at all. And by making it seem that the problem is solved, hybrids are actually part of the problem, not the solution.

    If Prius is the part of the problem, what is the the solution in your mind?

    Fuel cell, solar and nuke powered cars? Don’t forget they all cost resources (not necessarily gas) to build/operate. With your logic, if a car uses resource, it’s part of the problem. In a way, that’s true. But really, human beings are willing to spend a certain amount of resource for comfort. Even if you walk, you are still using resource—food.

    If you go read any starter economics book, it will tell you economics is about getting the most out of the least (but not nothing).

  • avatar
    LeeAlmighty

    I remember in the past there was a 3 month waiting list for a prius. I wouldnt want to wait three months for my car, I want it now, so i think the uptick in sales has something to do with gas prices, but, loosing the waiting probably had a lot to do with it too.

  • avatar
    Bob Elton

    I seem to recall writing in TTAC a while back that most of the mileage advantages ofa hybrid were actually created by features other than the hybridization. Engine shut-off, lower rolling resistance tires, etc. In fact, a Prious would get better real-world hughway mileage if the entire electric drivetrain and battery were left at home to reduce weight.

    I remain conviced that the vast majority of new car buyers simply don’t care that much about mileage; they just love to talk about it. Toyota’s genius was to market the Prious as something more than merely a good mileage car. It’s a movement, a cause and a fashion statement. But then most cars are fashion statements.

    Bob Elton

  • avatar

    Along with the good engineering, right price, etc., etc., etc. let’s not forget the Prius’ other plus: Show-off value. While other hybrids (with the exception of the Insight, and it was too small to be taken seriously by the average American car buyer) are only noticeable by a badge on the bodywork while going down the road, the Prius absolutely screams it’s owners environmental correctness. Maybe not the primary reason for purchasing the car, but one heck of a no-cost plus.

    Maybe if Honda had given their larger hybrids radically noticeable bodywork . . . . . .

  • avatar
    TexasAg03

    …the Prius absolutely screams it’s owners environmental correctness.

    However, one must be mindful of the huge cloud of smug that engulfs the owners of Prius… ;)

    By the way, according to Toyota, the plural is Prius, but owners can call it whatever they want. The correct Latin plural is Priora.

  • avatar
    rtz

    There’s only so many people who want a certain model vehicle. Once they all have one..

  • avatar
    Dave M.

    A frind just traded his ’03 Navigator in for a Pruis because of an increased commute. He loves it, and enjoys the challenge of trying to out-do himself on mpg ratings. Call it fugly or beautiful, there’s no doubt what it is.

    Credit Toyota with creating a 4th successful brand. I believe the rumored new members of the Prius family (during the model change after ’08) will include a wagon and a semi-mini pickup.

    Now stick the Toyota hybrid system on the upcoming Honda diesel set-up…now that would be astonishing!

  • avatar
    NICKNICK

    I believe that the Prius is THE hybrid because it only comes in hybrid form. Unless my memory is failing me, all other hybrids on the market are optional versions of conventional cars. Honda is perhaps the worst with this because of their nearly invisible badging: they’re sorely missing out. Yes, they had the insight, but it wasn’t a real car.

    I think it is most certainly a branding success. 1:Since it only comes in hybrid form, it knows exactly what it is (should please Farago); 2:it’s from Toyota, so people will trust it more than they would a Chevy, and 3:it looks different from everything else on the road.
    Combine 1 and 3 above, and you’ve got a formula for hybrid word-association perfection. Add 2, and it’s a no-brainer for the buying public.

  • avatar

    One friend got rid of his road rage becuase he’s now too preoccupied with trying to get the best mileage possible to get upset in traffic.

  • avatar
    airglow

    The Prius is a parallel hybrid, and by definition unnecessarily complex and expensive.

    Serial hybrids (electric vehicles with an onboard IC engine used only as a generator) will quickly replace parallel hybrids over the next 5 to 10 years. I would assume Prius 4.0 will be a serial hybrid, because if it’s not, there will be other serial hybrids available that will eat its lunch.

    The parallel hybrid will be an interesting historical step to the serial hybrid and then the electric car when we look back in 20 or 30 years.

  • avatar
    Drew

    As Mr. Neidermeyer’s piece points out, the Prius’ achievement is a branding-related success. When the going got tough for [some of] America’s fuel efficiency-challenged drivers, they didn’t want “a” hybrid; they wanted “the” hybrid. This might also mean that some of the Prius’ sales gains may be fashion-related. Or, more simply, they may result from the “I think it’s time we got a hybrid honey” effect.

    While this point may have some merit, I’m going to have to disagree with the broad thrust of it.

    Assume that a perspective buyer has decided that high MPG was a prime concern (or feature) for a new car. At that point, why not get a Prius? it gets the best mileage in its class. Things like the Yaris might come close, but the yaris is much smaller, and can’t be had with many of the options that the Prius can. Diesels are still relatively unavailable and many stations don’t carry diesel fuel.

    So, while there is inevitably marketing at work, I don’t think that you can contribute the majority of the Prius’ success to marketing. If, if, the Prius did not get the most mileage and was still the hybrid sales leader, then you might have something.

    You’re trying to turn correlation into causation here.

    Where I live, gas is above $3.50, and has been for a while. I suspect that many car buyers have finally realized that this is not some short-time fluke and are trying to hedge against the possibility even higher prices by getting a hybrid.

    Remember GM’s $1.99 per gallon advertisements/promotion for their SUVs? Does anybody here really think that we’ll see $1.99 gas again? For any significant length of time?

    Again, once you decide that high MPG is essential to your next purchase, why not go with the highest MPG? It happens that that’s the Prius.

    No conjecture or tortured “logic” is necessary. Remember Occam’s razor people…the simplest explanation is usually the correct one.

  • avatar
    Qwerty

    Has anyone met one of these mythical liberal snobs who bought a Prius just so he could lord it over the rest of the rabble that he was saving the environment and they are not?

    I have two friends and one family member who own Prii. I would not describe any of them as tree hugging loons. In fact I don’t think I have ever heard one of them mention the low emissions of their car. They all seemed to have arrived at their decision in a similar way: They wanted to spend twenty odd K on a car, they were determined to buy either a Toyota or a Honda, and the Prius gets great gas mileage. I think the fear that gas could go to five bucks a gallon in the near future was probably lurking in the shadows.

  • avatar
    skor

    I don’t get it. What’s the point of a hybrid when you could do just as well, or better, mileage wise with an oil burner? The oil burner would last longer and need less maintenance as well, and as another poster mentioned, you could run it on vegetable oil.

  • avatar
    shaker

    Toyota needs to take the next logical step: Adding additional battery capacity and a charger to make the Prius a “plug-in” hybrid. They would also have to change the control software to keep the ICE from starting, as long as the speed of the car was below a “useable” (say 35 MPH) level. There is an outfit offering a kit to convert a Prius, but it’s $9000, and voids the warranty. If Toyota steps up soon, the Prius will become enormously more useful to short-haul commuters.

  • avatar
    jolo

    The rumor I have heard is that the 2009 Prius will run on the electric motor up to ~30 or 35mph, making city driving electrical and open road driving ICE. Also newer battery technology will increase the range, making city MPG higher than it presently is. That’s the Prius I’m looking to buy.

  • avatar
    Glenn 126

    My Prius IS our primary car. 90% of the time, it is our commuter (for carpooling). I simply cannot afford “in-town” housing where I live because “half of your pay is a view of the bay” (trouble is, the rich people who don’t pay well have snapped up all of the waterfront and the rest of us hardly have a view anyway). So, we live 15 miles out of town. At least we are near another lake, have 3 acres and can enjoy it. But, it was getting kind of expensive to drive to work every day.

    So, a mid-sized car getting 48 mpg instead of a mid-sized V6 getting 24 mpg works out fine for us. I obviously wish it were 96 mpg, but maybe next Prius?

    In the meanwhile, it is the most reliable auto I’ve ever had in 34 years of driving. It’s going on 45000 miles and I will have owned it 2 years next month. One recall, one wire in the headlight aiming system wore through and it went on default setting. Fixed under warrantee. Not bad for 2 years of motoring, especially considering this car is truly exotic – makes a Ferrari look as “simple” in engineering as a Model T Ford.

    Kudos to Toyota for a job well done. And no, I’m neither “smug” nor am I an elite. I had to put the car on 6 year payments (read first paragraph again).

  • avatar
    Glenn 126

    skor, the difference between an oil burner (diesel) and a hybrid (Prius) is this.

    The VW Jetta diesel is a compact, the Prius is mid-sized (inside where it counts).

    The VW Jetta (2006 – no 2007 diesels are available) is approximately 20 times dirtier for air pollution compared to the Prius. So, for emissions (not CO2, but CO, HC, NOx, etc.) a whole neighborhood of Prius cars is cleaner than one diesel Jetta.

    Comments about free fuel are disingenious, because there are only so many McDonalds giving away free used veggie oil. The percentage of people driving on free fuel is minute.

    The Prius is far more serene and nice to drive than a Jetta diesel. The Prius is generally quite quiet.

    There are many more fuel stations selling gasoline compared to diesel fuel. Plus, diesel fuel stinks something awful (don’t forget to bring your latex gloves when you fill up – but of course, your shoes stink and thus the car carpet too, because there is inevitable spillage around diesel fuel pumps, and it doesn’t evaporate as gasoline does).

    Diesels have their place. They can be practical automobiles. But I don’t think their technology is as good as people think. Comparing Imperial MPG (as mentioned in Brit and Euro magazine and web sites) immediately gives people unrealistic ideas, because 56 mpg US is 70 mpg Imperial.

    Just imagine what a Kei-class turbo diesel full hybrid could do for mileage – probably 250 miles per gallon. Daihatsu has a prototype kei car hybrid (Japanese class car restricted to 660cc) and it obtains 175-205 mpg and seats 3.

    Finally, Consumer Report went to Quebec, bought a SMART Diesel, and tested it – it obtained 42 miles per gallon, whereas their test of the Prius netted 44 mpg, and obviously the car seats 4-5 instead of 2, and actually has more luggage area than the SMART car (like more than enough to carry a women’s purse in the back?)

    You asked, I supplied some answers!

    By the way, took my Scottish sister in law and my wife on a journey to the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, some 500 miles of which we obtained over 56 mpg in the Prius. When I told my sister-in-law this was 70 mpg Imperial, she nearly fainted. We had several hundred pounds of luggage and food, I might add. We were going with traffic flow, not being a rolling road-block.

  • avatar
    Jeff in Canada

    With all the talk about ToMoCo offering variations of the Prius in it’s next iteration, the Hatchback, Wagon, and sedan flavours, I wonder if they will branch out in their powertrain areas as well. A CVT? A manual? The Honda Insight had a manual. Frankly, I would love to see a Prius in my driveway, but one with a couple less doors and a manual between the seats.
    Just a thought, Anyone else desire a ‘Fun’ hybrid?

  • avatar
    shaker

    The more I read about the “Smart Car”, the more I realize (especially at its price point) that it’s neither.

  • avatar

    A coworker is ready to buy a new Prius. It would replace his Ford SUV for his long commute to work each day. He says: “I rented one last summer, and got 45 MPG.”
    He was impressed.

    As for Honda:
    They’re on record as saying they’re not putting all of their eggs in one basket.

    FWIW: I’m guessing Toyota does not have one of these (yet).

    Today [October 2006], you will test drive a functional version of the FCX Concept vehicle… This vehicle features our new, more advanced fuel cell system. And I am delighted to announce today that in 2008… one year earlier than originally planned… we will introduce a new fuel cell vehicle in Japan and the U.S. based on this concept model. In addition to its environmental performance, I think you will find that this new vehicle will be as fun to drive as any Honda.

    -&-

    The ride from pit lane was reminiscent of a golf cart whirring along, except that the engineer riding shotgun, a lab-coated gent identified only as Ken, kept saying “Faster! Faster!” These are our kinds of engineers.

    Obviously, Ken was proud of the FCX’s performance. It sped right up to 95 miles per hour on the banked oval, brakes slowed it quickly along the back straight, and then it got back to cruising speed without a hiccup.

    Just sayin’

  • avatar
    rollingwreck

    One thing that ticks me off a bit about the whole “Prius Argument” is that many people like to comment about the Prius without ever having driven one. To those of us who have, its sales success is no mystery. Anyone who is at all curious about the car should hop down to the local Toyota dealer & give it a spin, if only to see what the fuss is about.

    Its not just the high MPG, it is the size and refinement as well. In my extended (1500 mile) test drive, the NVH compared favorably to the old Lexus ES300 in my garage. And, in fact, I recognized a bunch of the switchgear from that car in the Prius.

    I can’t wait to see what the Gen-3 looks like…

  • avatar

    I am bothered by how green Toyota is made to look because of this single model. Toyota is indeed inspired by profit and they make the largest amount of it by balancing the Prius with a lot of large trucks. Also, though the Prius is a large portion of the gas-electric hybrid market, it is a small market (under 2%) when compared to the whole industry.
    On issue I would like some discussion of is how the Prius ages in terms of efficiency. My understanding is that the batteries wear such that they mileage drops dramatically at around 4 months of use. Many, many owners report that they actually get 41 MPG after several months of use though they at one point achieved 50-ish. These anecdotal reports were consistent with a report I read that was from a US state DOT (I think–I read it a couple of weeks ago but I cannot find it again now, otherwise you would get a link).

  • avatar
    BostonTeaParty

    Hybrids are all well and true but diesels and regular petrol engines have been producing amazing figures in europe FOR YEARS. If ToMOCo was really after good figures a diesel version would be in place.

  • avatar
    jconli1

    Everyone gets so passionate about their arguments… throwing around social slurs and trying to belittle the technology, but what about the fact that its just a well designed car?

    I fell in love with the 2nd gen Prius when they first released the preview pix. Technology, environment, and fuel ecomony be damned… even if that car only shipped with the Echo engine, I’d think it was a great car. The idea of a midsized 4-door hatch that looks like nothing else on the road and is incredibly useful is something no one else is doing in the US (up until this past year, at least).

  • avatar

    Qwerty: Has anyone met one of these mythical liberal snobs who bought a Prius just so he could lord it over the rest of the rabble that he was saving the environment and they are not?

    Well…

    We had a dinner party right after I bought my 2006 Civic. After showing off the new car to some college-aged folks, a Civic hybrid-driving college professor in attendance asked me this question: “Why didn’t you buy a hybrid?”
    (It was the first thing out of her mouth.)

    Did not tell her I sometimes enjoy winding the VTEC-engined coupe out to redline; how I love to row my own gears; nor how I prefer the stiffer suspension and the overall styling of the coupe.

    What I did mention was the economics of the deal, just not in detail.

    FWIW:

    ‘07 Civic Hybrid (CVT) – Invoice + destination: $21,384

    ‘07 Civic coupe (MT) – Invoice + destination: $17,816

    Price difference = $3,577

    $3,577 buys 1,022 gallons of gas at $3.50 per gallon.

    I’ve tracked the gas mileage for the Civic coupe right from Day 1. It is averaging 31.x MPG (mostly “two-lane road” type commuting). And I rack up the national average of around 16K miles per year.

    So, 31 MPG times 1,022 gallons nets 31,682 miles.
    That’s nearly 2 years of driving–on $3.50 gas.

    In MA, where I buy my gas, they’ve yet to see $3.50 gas (yesterday, I paid $3.10).
    So the math works out to even more miles driven, just to break even…

  • avatar
    Geotpf

    Well, a lot of the Prius’s success (over all other hybrid models offered by all companies) is that it’s gas mileage is the best of all of them (and of all model year 2007 cars overall). Plus, it’s larger than the Civic Hybrid (and discontinued two seater Insight) anyways.

    In fact, I don’t see what the point of the Camry Hybrid is. At all. The Prius is nearly as large, gets much better mileage, and is cheaper.

  • avatar
    Glenn 126

    So, airglow, why on earth would Toyota want to go from a successful system, to a less successful system for their hybrids?!

    Let’s compare.

    Honda Civic Hybrid. 10% less efficient overall than a Prius. Compact interior instead of mid-sized. Sedan (with 10 cubic foot – tiny – trunk) instead of a hatch (lots of flexibility for carrying people and stuff). Costs the same to buy. PLUS Civic Hybrid has to have a transmission AND batteries AND an electric motor/generator AND a 2nd starter “in case the main starter cannot start the car” (look it up, I’m right).

    So, I have to respectfully disagree with you. Though, my wife was looking at a Civic Hybrid, and I test-drove one myself and was moderately impressed – I still know that my Prius is well and truly more technologically advanced.

  • avatar
    Landcrusher

    OMG – A Prius pick up.

    I can see it now. Like an old VW van pickup, only with a modern Japanese look. I want one!

    BTW – Carbon Fiber is going through the roof, so don’t expect its use in anything that’s less costly than your house. Boeing and Airbus are buying up so much that no one can afford it to make cars, or even light aircraft anymore.

  • avatar
    KixStart

    Although Glenn Swanson found what appears to be a hybrid-driving snob, that individual was driving a Civic. The Prius snob still remains elusive…

    What’s wrong with Toyota getting a green halo from the Prius? That’s just smart marketing. Toyota has simply bet that gas will continue to rise in price (which seems to me to be a good bet) and acted accordingly. Detroit should learn something from this.

    And, yes, Toyota sells a whacking great truck. Which may actually get best-in-class fuel economy (depends on who tests it).

    Toyota makes several other small, conventional cars, very economical, with fuel economy that Detroit can not touch.

    Man, they’ve earned their green. Stop worrying about Toyota and start kicking Detroit’s ass (or, if you like, reward them by purchasing whatever fuel-efficient cars they do have; there’s nothing wrong with the Hybrid Escape, except that it doesn’t sell real well).

  • avatar
    KixStart

    Carbon fiber seems to me to be fairly mainstream, now (you get it in $600 bicycles!). It can’t be magic to produce any more. If supplies are tight, I expect we’ll see new producers.

  • avatar
    M1EK

    “Hybrids are all well and true but diesels and regular petrol engines have been producing amazing figures in europe FOR YEARS.”

    No, they really haven’t. Not amazing by any reasonable comparison – they’re either cars which don’t compare in terms of size, or their acceleration is horrible, or the mileage is awful, or the emissions are horrible, or some combination of all of those.

    Remember, even the Jetta, which at least comes close (but not quite) to Prius mileage is a fair amount smaller for people and a huge loser in cargo that accelerates like a dead cat.

  • avatar
    Steve_S

    I’ll be interested to see how VW’s new diesel line up and Honda’s Diesel Accord (very mid-sized and get between 50-60mpg from all accounts) due this fall.

    The Prius is a great sales success and has achieved a high brand awareness. When people think Hybrid they think Prius just like when they think Tissue they think Kleenax or MP3 player they think Ipod. The Prius offers very good gas mileage while being fairly roomy and functional. It also lets the owner say to the world, “Look at me I’m green”; whereas the other hybrids do not. When you see an Escape, Camry, Civic, Vue hybrid it looks just like the rest. When you see a Prius you know it’s a hybrid. It’s a combination of good engineering, branding and works better than any “Save the Planet” bumper sticker.

  • avatar
    stuki

    Toyota has done an excellent job mainstreaming what could only a few years ago easily have been written off as pie in the sky eco nut technology. The Prius has demonstrated excellent build quality and reliability, and the gas savings and enviro friendliness comes with very few risks. I think at least some part of the recent surge comes from people who didn’t want to be Toyota’s test dummies for unproven technology with unknown resale value.

    Now that the concept is validated, Toyota, or for that matter someone else, could offer a plug in recharge feature, either as an option or standard for the next generation. That could really offer non debatable gas and emission savings compared to pretty much any reasonable alternative.

  • avatar
    Jonesy

    You have failed to mention that the Prius is out selling the Ford Fusion. It is the 9th best selling car in the US!

  • avatar
    ihatetrees

    Glenn 126:

    The Prius is a fine vehicle for what it is:

    A fuel sipping, roomy (for a compact), highway cruiser backed by the finest, richest car company on the planet. However, the Prius also handles like absolute crap when pushed and is not available with a manual tranny.

    Re: Your comments to skor…

    The VW Jetta diesel is a compact, the Prius is mid-sized (inside where it counts).

    You’re right. The Prius wins in interior room.

    The VW Jetta (2006 – no 2007 diesels are available) is approximately 20 times dirtier for air pollution compared to the Prius. So, for emissions (not CO2, but CO, HC, NOx, etc.) a whole neighborhood of Prius cars is cleaner than one diesel Jetta.

    If you start with the assumption (as I do) that the Jetta diesel is more than clean enough (and probably more than 10x cleaner than diesels of a couple decades ago), then the 20x cleaner Prius is like cake with too much frosting.

    The Prius is far more serene and nice to drive than a Jetta diesel.

    You value serenity more than I do. The Jetta diesel is serene enough at highway cruise, plus it handles better on curves and (with the available MT) has a windable, fun, torque-filled engine.

    There are many more fuel stations selling gasoline compared to diesel fuel. Plus, diesel fuel stinks something awful (don’t forget to bring your latex gloves when you fill up – but of course, your shoes stink and thus the car carpet too, because there is inevitable spillage around diesel fuel pumps, and it doesn’t evaporate as gasoline does).

    I like the smell. It reminds me of my army daze.

    And you’re right about the evaporation thing – during the first Gulf War, our battalion HQ used to take a fueler (of diesel or a blend called JP5) and ‘water’ the sand in order to keep the dust and bugs down and out.

    Diesels have their place. They can be practical automobiles.

    As can hybrids. There are pluses and minuses to both. The strength of the Prius is its goodness and Toyota’s backing. However, for my economical-fun-to-drive mindset, the best value is in high revving, MT compacts.

  • avatar
    Johnson

    ihatetrees, sorry to burst your bubble, but diesel engines are *anything but* high revving.

  • avatar
    galaxygreymx5

    I bought an ’04 Prius right after the new body style hit the US in November ’03. Truly a remarkably engineered car that never failed to live up to its promise of high MPG and Toyota build quality. I think my worst tank was 48 MPG with the highest somewhere north of 60.

    In 60,000 miles I had one problem with a noisy A/C compressor. Toyota covered the cost of the part even though the car was out of warranty and I was on my way. The only other trouble it had was with parking tickets, but that’s hard to pin on Toyota.

    Last summer I got the itch for one last fun car before peak oil makes such a thing financially impractical. I *traded* the Prius for more than $20,000 (it was only $23,000 new) with 60k on the odo and took off in my new Miata.

    I’m glad I got the Mazda and I enjoy the heck out of it, but compared to the Prius it feels like there’s a hole in the gas tank. 30 MPG never felt so wasteful.

    When it’s time for another car, a Prius will be high on my shopping list. Not a whole lot of fun to fling around corners, but it’s cheap to buy, cheap to run, dead reliable, and cavernous inside.

    For the diesel VW proponents: The Jetta TDI costs more, accelerates slower, has a more intensive maintenance schedule, comes standard with VW’s frightening build quality issues, and consumes more fuel than the Prius. Based on VW’s sample, I fail to see the allure. We’ll see how Honda does with its stink-burner.

  • avatar
    rtz

    What? No Hybrid Ford Fusion? Ford just likes second place too much to take the lead and be number one.

    Who really cares about being the number one vehicle manufacturer in the world these days? Toyota and no one else.

    I wonder if GM misses being king of the world? When did it all start going downhill? About 1973? A long downhill slide ever since. The triple whammy of oil crisis/emissions/imports.

  • avatar
    SherbornSean

    Great analysis, Robert. I think we increasingly have to face the fact that Toyota “owns” hybrids. The only way to unseat them at this point would be with a significant technological advance, which would make GM the most logical player.

  • avatar
    ex-dtw

    For everyone that purchases a Prius based on economic priciples, i.e. you will actually make money driving the car because your mileage savings will pay for the premium you paid for the car AND you need the space over something like a Fit, fine. Great.

    For everyone else, i.e. those that think they you are actually doing something for the environment you probably really don’t understand economics. The truth is for every gallon of gas you don’t use, you basically make gas cheaper thereby encouraging people who want that big SUV to buy it by, drumroll please, keeping gas prices low. Supply and demand people.

    If you want to reduce the number of people driving SUV’s you should probably drive a bus. Assuming your pain tolerance for gas prices is heigher than the next guys.

    Finally, good old fahioned oil will continue to propel our cars until we find something CHEAPER (this can also include better). And for all of the sky is falling crowd, this is normal the whole prices and markets thing. It is why we are progressing toward alternative fuels and reduced consumption.

  • avatar
    ihatetrees

    Johnson ihatetrees, sorry to burst your bubble, but diesel engines are *anything but* high revving.

    Right. I should have clarified as follows…

    For me, a (high revving) MT petrol sedan (Mazda 3, Subie Impreza) is preferable to a (low revving) MT Jetta diesel is preferable to a (completely non-revvable) Pruis.

    Note that I consider all the above fine cars. I just value stirring my own gears more than watching an MPG trip computer display 50.

  • avatar
    jkross22

    To all Prius fawners:

    How long will it take to break even for gas consumption comparing the Prius to a Honda Civic LX from a purely cost perspective? Assume gas is $3.40/gallon. Right now it’s around 3.20/gallon.

    I checked out fueleconomy.com to get the Gov’t best guesses as to fuel economy. If you owned each car for 5 years, the total estimated gas cost would be 8,452 for the Civic and 5,283 for the Prius, a difference of 3196. The mid level Civic LX stickers for around 19k with auto and the “mid level” Prius is 26k.

    So the Prius is 7k more expensive, but would save 3200 in fuel costs over 5 years. So, even if you drive the Prius 10 yrs, you still won’t recover what you could have saved if you bought the Civic. And all this is before the cost of replacing the Prius battery.

    The Prius seems to be the equivalent of those colored bands people wear to symbolize a particular struggle. Great idea, but does it really do much to change people’s behavior?

  • avatar
    galaxygreymx5

    Well that logic sort of works, with the exception that the base $22,175 Prius has more equipment than the Civic LX. Automatic climate control, steering-wheel audio and climate, pushbutton start, LCD info screen, alloy wheels, LED tail lamps, and heated mirrors come to mind.

    In addition, the Prius is a midsize, the Civic a compact, so you’re already blurring things a bit. But even so, the price gap is now down to about the fuel savings gap. Throw in the (quickly evaporating) tax credit on the Toyota and it’s a wash.

    But people rarely buy cars like this. Try persuading a Suburban buyer to buy a 2.4L Highlander because it gets better mileage, won’t happen. Midsize buyers are generally shopping midsize cars and that’s part of the reason the Prius is such a smash success. It offers lots of room, plenty of equipment, a roster of cool options, and then throws in the hybrid fuel economy and geek appeal on top at a very reasonable price.

    I think Car and Driver said it best when they pondered how many miles you’d need to drive to recover the value of the Eddie Bauer option on the Expedition. Or how much you’d need to drive to recover the value of your Mark Levinson stereo (this is paraphrasing, but you get the gist). Obviously you can’t, and the Prius is an emotional purchase just like any other car. If everyone bought cars solely based on $/mile, we’d all be cruising around in 1994 Tercels.

  • avatar
    kdhspyder

    JKross22 wrote
    To all Prius fawners:

    How long will it take to break even for gas consumption comparing the Prius to a Honda Civic LX from a purely cost perspective? Assume gas is $3.40/gallon. Right now it’s around 3.20/gallon.

    I checked out fueleconomy.com to get the Gov’t best guesses as to fuel economy. If you owned each car for 5 years, the total estimated gas cost would be 8,452 for the Civic and 5,283 for the Prius, a difference of 3196. The mid level Civic LX stickers for around 19k with auto and the “mid level” Prius is 26k.

    So the Prius is 7k more expensive, but would save 3200 in fuel costs over 5 years. So, even if you drive the Prius 10 yrs, you still won’t recover what you could have saved if you bought the Civic. And all this is before the cost of replacing the Prius battery.

    The Prius seems to be the equivalent of those colored bands people wear to symbolize a particular struggle. Great idea, but does it really do much to change people’s behavior?

    Here is your answer in a nutshell. When I was looking for a fuel efficient vehicle, having come out of 4 Camry’s over 16 years, all the small vehicles were eliminated because they
    ..were too small
    ..rode rougher
    ..did not have the safety features of a midsized auto
    ..did not have the niceties of a midsized auto
    ..couldn’t carry squat.

    So all smaller econoboxes and their hatchback mates were eliminated. What does that leave? You tell me.

    Techieness was a key factor admittedly but fuel economy, touchy feely concepts like greenness and image were way down the list.

    It’s me in the car 40,000 miles a year. My enjoyment and comfort come first. So now tell me which Civic model was it that can carry a 43″ flatscreen, set of golf clubs, briefcase, two pizza’s and two passengers….oh and get 45 mpg?

    Join the 21st Century.

  • avatar
    kdhspyder

    SherbornSean:
    June 12th, 2007 at 10:55 am

    Great analysis, Robert. I think we increasingly have to face the fact that Toyota “owns” hybrids. The only way to unseat them at this point would be with a significant technological advance, which would make GM the most logical player.
    Here is an alternate viewpoint…

    Background:
    Last Fall GM, F, T all announced that they had no intentions to bring diesels to the US market for light vehicle use. Honda had announced it’s intention to do so though.
    The Winter auto shows were all about GM’s new Volt and next developments with the 2-Modes. Not a word from Toyota.
    The 2-Modes are introduced this Spring. Not a word from Toyota, except ‘we’re still in the hybrid business for the long term..’

    GM emphasizes the use of the 2-Modes in the Yukon, Tahoe and lambda’s and eventually in the Aura/Malibu. Not a word from Toyota, ‘except we’re still in the hybrid business for the long term..and speculation about a Prius A, B and C in 2009’

    Shall we call this a ‘cooperative coalecence of interests’ to promote the development of hybrid technology across the whole product spectrum; i.e.
    IMA/BAS in smaller vehicles,
    HSD/2-Mode in medium vehicles,
    2-Mode in heavy vehicles

  • avatar
    hal

    who buys these cars?
    This year 3 neighbors have purchased hybrids, all professional women (teacher, doctor and lawyer) in 2 car families who use it for commuting. They get relability, comfort and economy (& a tax benefit). What’s not to like?

  • avatar
    M1EK

    “How long will it take to break even for gas consumption comparing the Prius to a Honda Civic LX from a purely cost perspective?”

    Irrelevant. Most Prius buyers were not shopping small cars, they were shopping midsize. And your FUD about the battery is a lie too – for those keeping track. Finally, even if you were dumb enough to be shopping Civic vs. Prius, and the huge amount of extra space in the Prius was worth exactly $0 to you, you’d still have to account for the value of the fuel price _hedge_.

  • avatar
    murphysamber

    I’m not going to sift through 6 pages of comments to get my answer, but if the Prius is so good, why is it that the used market is flooded with them. I see an average of 3-4 a week get appraised here, and a used VW diesel is something we see only once per year (and sells in a matter of hours of arrival). Diesel is not as quiet, but has much more power, and gets significantly better mileage in highway driving. Remember, the worst thing you can do in a Prius is step on the GAS pedal. That’s a heavy battery to be pulling down the highway with a tiny 4cy engine at 75mph.

  • avatar
    kdhspyder

    ONe quick word describes it all…volume…

    The 12 Jetta TDI’s sold are still getting broken in..;)

    Diesel is not as quiet, but has much more power, and gets significantly better mileage in highway driving. Remember, the worst thing you can do in a Prius is step on the GAS pedal. That’s a heavy battery to be pulling down the highway with a tiny 4cy engine at 75mph

    The first sentence is only partially accurate. The highlighted text is a common misconception.
    Don’t understand your last sentence.

  • avatar

    For the naysayers if you don’t like the Prius, don’t buy one but please let me assure you that people who like or buy cars you don’t like are not stupid.

    When one or more of the domestics goes under it will be partially as a result of the closed minded not invented here mind set exhibited by those who cannot see value in the Prius.

  • avatar
    KixStart

    murphysamber: “… used car market flooded [with Priuses]…”

    Where do you live, I mean, which planet, where used Priuses are so commonly available?

    CarSoup lists 8 2005+ Priuses for sale in my area today. Carsoup knows of 210 2005+ Cobalts available. I’m pretty certain the Cobalt outsells the Prius, so more Cobalts on the market is reasonable. But – by a factor of 25?

  • avatar
    thx_zetec

    “those that think they you are actually doing something for the environment you probably really don’t understand economics. The truth is for every gallon of gas you don’t use, you basically make gas cheaper thereby encouraging people who want that big SUV to buy it by, drumroll please, keeping gas prices low. Supply and demand people.”

    No, not true. Basic economics, go to this link and page about half way down, you’ll see that reducing the amount demanded will always yield lower prices and less consumption.

    If you reduce your gasoline usage you will make the price go down, this in turn will cause some increase in consumption *but the increase will be less than your initial demand reduction*.

    This is a fallacy with equilibrium systems. Imagine you want better mileage to you let air out of your tires. This decreases your speed, and saves gas right?

  • avatar
    thx_zetec

    here is link

    http://www.answers.com/topic/supply-and-demand

  • avatar
    M1EK

    “and a used VW diesel is something we see only once per year (and sells in a matter of hours of arrival)”

    Gee, maybe you don’t see as many VW diesels because they sold a comparable handful of them next to the Prius? To say nothing of the fact that the people willing to buy those things are self-selected, uh, ‘eccentrics’ to begin with who are unlikely to want to get rid of the oilburner before it finally dies on them.

  • avatar
    murphysamber

    i’ve seen at least 15 used prius’ in our used department over the past 12 months and they sit there an average of 6-8 weeks before being sold. We can’t get enough TDI’s to meet demand. about half of the one’s sold are to people trading in the prius…so what can you make of that?

  • avatar
    airglow

    Glenn 126:
    June 11th, 2007 at 12:54 pm

    So, airglow, why on earth would Toyota want to go from a successful system, to a less successful system for their hybrids?!

    Let’s compare.

    Honda Civic Hybrid. 10% less efficient overall than a Prius. Compact interior instead of mid-sized. Sedan (with 10 cubic foot – tiny – trunk) instead of a hatch (lots of flexibility for carrying people and stuff). Costs the same to buy. PLUS Civic Hybrid has to have a transmission AND batteries AND an electric motor/generator AND a 2nd starter “in case the main starter cannot start the car” (look it up, I’m right).

    So, I have to respectfully disagree with you. Though, my wife was looking at a Civic Hybrid, and I test-drove one myself and was moderately impressed – I still know that my Prius is well and truly more technologically advanced.

    I think you misread my post. There are no/zero/none/nada serial hybrids currently for sale. The 4th generation Prius (2012?) may be a serial hybrid and the GM Volt is planned as a serial hybrid. A serial hybrid is an electric car with an internal combustion engine that only generates electricity to charge the batteries/capacitors or run the electric motors. This eliminates the complex transmission and controls needed to send both internal combustion and electric power to the drive wheels.

    It is painfully obvious serial hybrids will be cheaper, simpler and more efficient than the parallel hybrids available today. We just need better electricity storage solutions which I’m confident are coming soon. If and when electric vehicles with a full days range (400 miles plus) or a quick charge batteries (less than 30 minutes) become a reality, the era of the internal combustion automobile will be over. Generating electricity at a power plant, even a coal fired one, is just too efficient and clean compared to even the best internal combustion engines on the drawing board.

  • avatar
    KixStart

    murphysamber, You still didn’t say where this is (and what is the nature of your “department? Buick dealership?).

    A used Prius will probably move relatively slowly, as the price is nearly that of a new one (as in, why bother buying used?).

    Since VW can no longer import diesels into the US, anyone wanting a diesel VW has no choice but to snap up one of the used VWs.

    It also would not surprise me to find a Prius traded for a diesel VW; the Prius highway economy is better than a regular car but perhaps about the same as a VW diesel. If a purchaser was interested in great fuel economy, they might try the Prius and then, if disappointed (perhaps their driving style doesn’t mesh well with the capaibilities of the Prius), might move on to the VW diesel.

    And 15 over the past year? That’s hardly impressive. The used market is not “flooded” with them.

    And, 2003-present, there are exactly as many Priuses on the market here today as there are diesel VWs.

    Finally, what percentage of VWs are diesels? Of the 440 VWs on the market here today, 13 are diesels. Is that representative of the original mix?

    The market is not “flooded” with Priuses; at least not around here.

  • avatar

    murphysamber

    Reread Mr. Faragos article it is about the increase in sales of the Prius. It is now a top 10 selling vehicle.

    What do you make of that?

    If you don’t understand why, then I would suggest reading the coments of the readers which you chose to not read. Several tell you why the Prius in their opinion is a desirable car.

    BTW the website is easier to read in my opinion if you click on the “classic” mode buttobn on the top of the website.

    You/ve seen 15 used Prius cars in the last year. How many Camrys or Accords or for that matter Impalas have you seen.

    If some dealer has seen 15 used Camrys in the last year does that mean the Camry is losing steam?

    So what brand of dealer do you work for and how many family sedans of that brand has the used car branch of your dealership seen in the last year?

  • avatar
    murphysamber

    I sell the Prius, and the VW TDI. And while I make a killing on both, the Prius customers are the ones who come back 3 months later complaining that the mileage is much less than what they expected. VW customers continue to plug a coupel 1000 miles a month on their cars and call to say thanks. And yes, the Prius is a best seller. That’s great. So is the F150. Car’s aren’t necessarily best sellers because of their merits. I had a Prius to drive for a couple weeks. even babying the thing it never got close to the mileage I’m supposed to talk about. The ground isn’t flat enough north of Detroit it would seem.
    I’m not trying to give a sales pitch for the VW diesel specifically. But I think that a hybrid gas engine is more hype and promise than anything else. You need to live in a true urban area to reap the rewards of the engine. Diesel engines last longer, and can run on a clean, renewable fuel.
    There has to be a reason why the Prius is so popular here. I’m a firm believer that most people will buy with their hopes, not brains. Why do you think full size trucks sell when gas is $3 a gallon. Just because something sells well doesn’t mean it is the end of the discussion, or even better choice. It just means people want so bad to believe that they have found the next great thing

    36 Prius’ found within 100 miles of 48073. 15 Jetta diesels, and the jetta has had a diesel for 3 times as long as the prius has been out.

  • avatar
    confused1096

    I’m not a huge fan of the Prius but I have to sing it’s praises anyway. Unproven tech and all it is one durable little windup car. We use these (and various others) for company cars. Our Prii get abused just about as bad as you can imagine and they still spend less time in the shop than our Ford Foci. Impressive.

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