Toyota Celebrates 9 Million Hybrids Sold as Hybrid Sales Continue to Decline

Steph Willems
by Steph Willems

It’s easy to understand Toyota’s enthusiasm for selling 9 million hybrids worldwide since 1997. (Well, 9.014 million, but who’s counting?)

After all, have you sold 9.014 million hybrids? Don’t lie. You haven’t.

Toyota’s announcement comes as the world’s largest automaker accepts a challenge (from itself) to bring the total number of hybrid models sold to 15 million by 2020. It will do that by introducing more hybrid versions of its vehicles, then selling — it hopes — 1.5 million of them each year.

Toyota has already shoehorned hybrid systems into the RAV4, Highlander, Camry, and the Retiree Special (also known as the Avalon), along with several Lexus models and a slew of overseas vehicles you’ll never drive.

But there’s a problem. Despite Toyota’s lofty sales goals, consumers are falling out of love with hybrids. The automaker’s top year for global hybrid sales was 2013, with sales falling gradually ever since.

Even with a diversified Prius lineup and an all-new 2016 sedan, sales of the world’s most recognized hybrid model are on the wane.

Well, sure, you say, oil prices plunged and gas prices went along for the ride. And gas is still cheap despite a modest rebound in the cost of crude. A regional war or the simple passage of time will bring pump prices up and everyone will fall in love with hybrids again. Right?

Well, in North America, the Prius family hit its sales peak in 2012, two years before the gas crash. Sales of the namesake model (not its variants) are no different. The best sales year for the Prius was in 2007, peaking again at a lower number in 2012.

It’s probably safe to say that Toyota needs U.S. customers on board if it wants to fulfill its promise of 15 million hybrids by 2020.

Automakers have made great strides in squeezing more miles out of a gallon of gas in recent years, and they’ve offered the package to customers without the markup that typically comes with hybrids. Electric vehicles are very slowly making inroads, but the upcoming Chevrolet Bolt and Tesla Model 3 now make the EV seem like less of a niche vehicle, and they offer what Lee Iacocca used to call “snob appeal.”

The route Toyota’s taking on its hybrid quest will be uphill, all the way.

[Image: Toyota Motor Corporation]

Steph Willems
Steph Willems

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  • Laserwizard Laserwizard on May 23, 2016

    The Toyoduh Prius is one hideous vehicle. It would take several traffic accidents to improve the looks of this vehicle. Apparently Toyoduh is not satisfied being second ugliest next to those hideous things being made by Honduh - particularly that gut emptying Civic and that uglified face of the Accord or the dry heave sisters of HRV and CRV which could actually be venereal diseases on wheels.

  • Shaker Shaker on May 23, 2016

    "The Toyoduh Prius is one hideous vehicle" If gas were six bucks a gallon, I could live with its looks. Maybe if Trump is elected, used Prii will be worth a fortune after he nukes all the oil wells in the Middle East. Very unkind, very unkind. I actually like Trump, what a guy. Some of my best friends are billionaires.

  • JOHN One is for sale on an ebay car donation site.
  • Scott So they are losing hundreds of millions of dollars and they are promising us a “Cheaper EV”? I wonder how that will look and feel? They killed the Fiesta because they claimed that they couldn’t make a profit on them and when I bought the first one in late 2010 they couldn’t deliver the accessories I wanted for it! Then I bought a 2016 Fiesta ST and again couldn’t get the accessories for it I wanted. They claimed that the components were going to be available, eventually. So they lost on that one as well! I don’t care about what they say anymore. I’ve moved on to another brand.
  • Michael S6 CX 70 or 90 will not be on my buying list. Drove a rental base CX 90 and it was noisy and the engine noise was not pleasant. Ride was rough for a family SUV. Mazda has to understand that what is good for Miata isn't what we expect in semi luxury SUV. My wife's 2012 Buick Enclave has much better Ride and noise level albeit at worse gas millage. Had difficulty pairing my phone with Apple CarPlay
  • Michael S6 What is the metric conversion between one million barrels and the number of votes he expects to buy.
  • NJRide This could give Infiniti dealers an extra product maybe make it a sub brand