By on May 21, 2016

2016_Toyota_Prius_001_2452A99B7A0DE853E9CCBFC12E5E78A937FFFBE2

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]

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44 Comments on “Toyota Celebrates 9 Million Hybrids Sold as Hybrid Sales Continue to Decline...”


  • avatar
    Kenmore

    I think this just shows that smart consumers are bad for business. Give the something that lasts and watch sales plummet.

  • avatar
    karonetwentyc

    Yes, but can we get them in beige?

  • avatar
    iNeon

    Toyota have gone as beige as beige can go by making the Tacoma’s Mojave Sand available on FR-S models.

  • avatar
    05lgt

    They better hurry up and fix those Prius tail lights then.

  • avatar
    Rday

    I am toyota fanatic and proud to admit it. Every Toyota I have owned has operated flawlessly, even the hybrids. So I will someday soon buy the new Rav4 hybrid and have that as my daily driver. WIll keep the 11 year old Honda Ridgeline here in Kc for when I fly back from LA. but my next vehicle will be the hybrid. The hybrids in particular offer the best bang for the buck and the Toyota hybrid system is perfect. My recent experience with FCA has made me a total Toyota loyalist. Toyota just does things right, fixes any problems quickly and really has the customer in mind. Sad that Detroit could care less about Muricans than a Japanese company. A pox onto all of them.

    • 0 avatar
      iNeon

      Come buy another Toyota! I’ll gladly use the proceeds to pay my Dodge’s payment :D

    • 0 avatar
      SSJeep

      Toyota makes best-in-class hybrids, no doubt about that. What they are missing is any sense of driver engagement whatsoever. I wish Toyota still had the vibe that they used to with the Supra, MR2, T230 Celica, etc. Heck, even the Nissan Leaf is more fun to drive than a Prius, and that says a lot. So if you want an appliance, by all means a Toyota is a good choice. If you want fun, best to look elsewhere.

    • 0 avatar
      Jacob

      Hybrids are best bang for the buck? You gotta be joking. The base Prius for $25K has the noise, ride, equipment, and interior qualify of a $18K Corolla. The Prius will never make up for the ridiculous price premium unless the gas prices shot up to $4-5 a gallon, and you keep driving the damn penalty box for like 300,000 miles. And this $25K poverty spec-Prius does not have even a power seat. Prius “saves” money for people who can’t do basic arithmetic to understand the scam it is.

  • avatar
    Xeranar

    Averaging around 500K unit sales a year they need to average 1.25M a year here out. Not likely but not impossible. The article really reads like a new guy to the group trying to fit in, “Heh, Hybrids right? WHO NEEDS THEM!?! Oh Joey drives a hybrid? Well uh….They’re kinda cool I guess?”

    Seriously, they’re one prong in a multi-prong approach. As full-EVs come online and ICEs continue to improve albeit slowly the hybrid is going to be squeezed to some extent.

    • 0 avatar
      thenerdishere

      Surprisingly there are large number of EV’s in Houston. One reason may be due to electricity deregulation. There are many electrical providers that do not charge for electrical usage after 9 pm or 10 pm. If one charges an EV at night, the electrical cost is $0.00.

    • 0 avatar
      SSJeep

      Hybrid can be defined many ways. I would prefer to see Toyota produce a hybrid that relies on only electric propulsion exclusively, with a small ICE motor to recharge the battery plant when needed.

      Give gasoline another spike to $5.00/gal, and they will meet their sales goal in no time. Its not a matter of if, but when.

  • avatar
    kcflyer

    The new prius is a step back in styling imo. In fact I find it down right ugly. We will be in the market for my wife’s next car next year and I really wanted the new prius to be on the list. But we took a hard look at the auto show and it’s just too ugly. Even though the new Accord is less attractive than the 2015 model I still cant see buying the prius when you can have a 50 mpg Accord in a roomier and more conventional package. The wildcard for us is the new Civic Touring. Amazing room, style, luxury and 40 MPG.

  • avatar
    golden2husky

    Too bad to hear this because for chumps like me who get the joy of a couple of hours a day in traffic can see quite the improvement in mileage. My Altima hybrid is now returning .1 mpg less that 37 mpg. I could also use the Prius (the cars are work provided) and see 49-50 mpg, but the vastly better dynamics of the Altima over the Prius makes this a no-brainer. Reliability of the hybrid drivetrain has been bulletproof and the car now has 130K on it. No surprise as the hybrid portion and the trans are all Toyota.

    • 0 avatar
      Professional Lurker

      I wasn’t a hybrid owner until very recently, but so far driving one has significantly improved my mood while in stop-and-go bridge-tunnel traffic. Things are nice and quiet inside the car (no idling!) and keeping track of my efficiency scores gives me something entertaining to do. Saving fuel is nice, too.

      • 0 avatar
        mattwc1

        I recently (as of 2 years ago) became a hybrid owner. I was commuting to infamous NoVa via the mixing bowl. My round trip was about 100 miles round trip and I averaged well over 50 mpg. While my car certainly will not stoke the enthusiast fire in me, the fuel saving was and is quite real. My commute thankfully is not as long anymore, but the car averages 44-50 mpg in me newer typical commute (about 10 miles highway with about 3 miles local roads)

        I bought my car slightly used at a ridiculous price. Therein lies the rub with hybrids/ev’s etc. As newer cars (especially non Hybrid) are slowly reaching hybrid levels of efficiency, the difference between hybrid and non hybrid versions is becoming less and less.It also becomes more difficult to purchase one new with that knowledge and with relatively cheap gas (at least in the States). My car was slightly used with about 12k on the odometer and about 1.5 years old. I was able to buy it at a hefty discount.

        • 0 avatar
          shaker

          An ICE car touted “40 MPG” will return you 25MPG (or less) in stop-and-go traffic. Most hybrids exceed 35 MPG in traffic.

          And the ICE car’s brake pads will wear out significantly faster as well.

          Hybrids have extended oil change intervals, AFAIK.

  • avatar
    thenerdishere

    We’ve been looking for a new wagon. Will Toyota be updating the PriusV soon?

  • avatar
    TrailerTrash

    Steph…
    WTH.? “and the Retiree Special (also known as the Avalon),…”
    My mom’s caretaker, a 35ish woman, LOVES her Avalon.
    Hell…years ago I was looking at them.
    I just liked having a larger cat but not huge…just better packaged.
    The thing that stopped me wa the dash. Hated it.

  • avatar
    Conslaw

    The prices of hybrids in the used market has recently tanked. Even the Prius which was selling for over half its original price at 5 years old and 100k miles not long ago have had used values go down. I felt it first hand when my C-MAX was totalled in an accident two weeks ago. I was disappointed by the amount that the insurance company gave me until I found that I could replace my car more or less for what I was offered. I even saw a loaded 2014 Honda Accord hybrid with 60k miles for $20k, about half its original price. 60k miles is nothing on a hybrid is like 30k on a conventional car, because the engine only runs half the time (more or less) and the friction brakes often aren’t used to stop the car.

    If you are looking for a car under $15k, check out the C-Max and other hybrids. My new car is a 2013 C-Max SEL with everything on it, originally $33,000 list, for under $15k.

    • 0 avatar
      bball40dtw

      Now I’m the only one with a C-Max SE 203A with the winter package!

      Is everyone that was involved in your accident okay?

      • 0 avatar
        Conslaw

        Bball40dtw, everyone is fine. Thanks for asking. There is a 3013 C-Max with 203 and winter package that just arrived to Carmax Indianapolis. I asked for the transfer, but it took so long to get here that I bought a car somewhere else.

    • 0 avatar
      Professional Lurker

      I really liked the C-Max when I looked at a new one last year. However, it’s good that I didn’t pull the trigger at that time because with so many barely-used examples coming into CarMax and elsewhere, it’s hard to justify a new.

      In March I got a 2014 SEL with just under 11,000 miles on it. The original owner (who bought it new) didn’t even have it a year. I can’t imagine how painful that trade-in was.

      PS – Sorry to hear about your accident

    • 0 avatar
      brettc

      I just started looking at the C-Max. Found a loaded CPO 2015 SEL at a dealer about 200 miles away for just under $18k. Trying to find a suitable replacement for my TDI and the C-Max looks promising.

  • avatar
    Petra

    The key to success will be to reduce the cost. Right now, a Camry Hybrid has a price premium of roughly $2,500 CDN over a comparably equipped Camry LE. If Toyota brought that down by half, the Hybrid model would be an easier sell for a lot of buyers. And it seems like Toyota knows this: they made a lot of changes to the new Prius to reduce costs, like using their global modular architecture for the platform. I think I remember reading something as well about reducing the amount or rare earth metals in the motor/generator system, but I can’t find a source right now. Costs for batteries are also expected to decline as production increases, which will benefit Toyota, too.

  • avatar
    redliner

    There is an underlying question that no one is asking: Why does Toyota push hydrogen so hard, while taking to pure BEVs like an Atkins dieter to a wilted salad?

    The answer is simple. A hydrogen vehicle is a hybrid of sorts, and it requires all the equipment a regular hybrid does except the ICE. Toyota has the patents, the suppliers and the expertise to make profitable hybrids. Along with GM, Toyota is also amongst the most knowledgeable companies in the world when it comes to hydrogen vehicles. Toyota would like to disadvantage its competitors by forcing the market to deviate towards a hydrogen economy, while winning triple-brownie points with CAFE for making hydrogen cars.

    • 0 avatar
      SSJeep

      An EV with Hydrogen recharging makes sense. Hydrogen wont hit the masses due to lack of infrastructure, and Toyota alone cant force the markets hand.

  • avatar
    Jeff S

    In the near future most vehicles will have some form of hybrid. As batteries get less expensive, more compact, and the range gets longer and as fuel efficiency standards get more stringent hybrids will provide a way for the manufacturers to meet these standards. I have not driven a Prius but I have driven a C-Max which I was much more impressed with than I thought I would be. I would seriously consider buying a C-Max. GM is also has an optional form of hybrids on the Buick LaCross, Chevy Malibu, and Chevy Impala. Toyota is smart to expand the availability of hybrids. I would seriously consider buying a hybrid RAV 4 especially after reading the review on TTAC.

  • avatar
    shaker

    A RAV-4 Hybrid is the real sweet spot for Toyota right now – quicker than the stock 4-cyl, and much better real-world mileage – a smart buy.

  • avatar
    zip89105

    I always said I’d never own one, but after renting a Prius a few years ago, I’d recommend them to anyone. Averaged 48mpg with the air conditioning running, the vehicle was quiet, and acceleration was good enough. The only negative I saw was a blind spot at the right rear.

  • avatar
    laserwizard

    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.

  • avatar
    shaker

    “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.

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