America Is Changing In More Ways Than One: Toyota Prius Sales Are At A Five-Year Low

Timothy Cain
by Timothy Cain
america is changing in more ways than one toyota prius sales are at a five year low

It’s an all-new version of a car that generally finds 140,000 U.S. buyers per year. But the Toyota Prius is quickly fading from the American mainstream.

There’s no doubt that hybrids, in a general sense, are struggling. Combined sales of hybrids and plug-in hybrids are down 6 percent in the United States this year, according to

But the Toyota Prius — the all-new, fourth-generation version of the sector’s progenitor — is fading at double speed. Despite its newness and its vast objective improvements, Prius sales are down 12 percent this year.

And October was way, way, way worse than that. Much worse.

Year-over-year, Prius sales in October tumbled 44 percent, undoubtedly hindered by a recall announced mid-month. Only 5,421 copies of the Toyota Prius were sold in the United States in October 2016. That was the lowest October figure for the Prius since 2003, a year before George W. Bush was elected the second time.

October 2016 represented the lowest-volume month for the Prius since June 2011, more than a year before Barack Obama was elected a second time, when the Tōhoku earthquake and subsequent tsunami wreaked havoc on supply of Japan-built cars.

It might get worse in November. The recall announced earlier in October, related to the possibility of an inoperative parking brake, transitioned into a stop-sale notice in the final days of October.

The level of competition certainly does the Prius no favors when examining the car’s performance in a historical context. In 2007, when Prius sales peake d, there was not a larger Prius and a smaller Prius, nor was there a new plug-in Prius waiting just around the corner. Indeed, plug-ins and pure electrics weren’t stealing 30 percent of the overall hybrid/electric market as they are now, either.

Times have changed. Buyers interested in green cars now have more options.

Fuel prices have changed, as well. In mid-2007, American car buyers were paying more than $4.00/gallon or regular fuel, roughly half that today.

For the new Prius, the changing American automotive landscape is likewise all too apparent. Not only are there more competitors stealing the Prius’s old market share. Not only is it difficult for any vehicle in this category to make headway when fuel prices are so low. But the Prius is also a car in a market that’s now filling its belly on SUVs and crossovers. In October, Americans purchased and leased 60,000 more utility vehicles than cars.

Unfortunately for Toyota, the core Prius’s decline wasn’t even the worst in the Prius family in October. While resulting in far less lost volume, the aged Toyota Prius V wagon plunged 45 percent in October 2016; the subcompact Prius C slid 54 percent. Nor were the significant declines among Toyota hybrids connected only to the Prius family. says Camry Hybrid sales slid 29 percent compared with October 2015, the Avalon Hybrid was down 32 percent, Highlander Hybrid sales slid 5 percent, the Lexus ES300h fell 61 percent, and the Lexus CT200h tumbled 48 percent.

The Toyota RAV4 Hybrid has become an important part of the increasingly popular RAV4 lineup, however, and Lexus crossover hybrid volume is on the rise, as well. And of course, Toyota light truck volume is soaring. Last month was the best-ever October for Toyota light truck sales, and it would likely have been better if supply wasn’t an issue.

But the Prius, the hybrid that got the green ball rolling at Toyota, is increasingly less consequential in Toyota showrooms. That’s true whether we’re discussing a month with or without quality issues.

A decade ago, the Prius accounted for 7 percent of the new vehicles sold by Toyota Motor Sales, USA, Inc. That figure is down to 4 percent this year; just 3 percent in October.

So, can Toyota interest you in a Prius Prime?

[Images: Toyota,]

Timothy Cain is the founder of, which obsesses over the free and frequent publication of U.S. and Canadian auto sales figures. Follow on Twitter @goodcarbadcar and on Facebook.

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  • Jim123 Jim123 on Nov 10, 2016

    I dunno who's approving all of these "oragami on acid" designs Yota keeps puking out, but they need to be female-dog slapped. Blind and sheep-like loyalty will only get you so far when your products resemble JDM market kids toys. I thought the GenIII Prius was neat looking in Prius 5 trim and considered a used one as a backup/spare vehicle. Don't know why they couldn't have further evolved that design?

  • Hifi Hifi on Nov 11, 2016

    Ya don't say!?!? People aren't throwing money at Toyota for a car that looks like a dumpster on casters? Cars like Toyota have done well because the bland designs and awkward proportions said "I'm too serious about being reliable to bother looking good." But the difference now is that Toyotas are conspicuously junky and the designs aren't purposeful anymore. This Prius is a foolish, amateurish design.

    • Guy922 Guy922 on Nov 12, 2016

      They have gotten pretty Junky. My sister has a 2013 Corolla, Mom a 2013 Camry. Both have just seemed to fall apart in the last few years. The Corolla lost a bunch of screws from under the dash when we brought it home, and the front door panels have rapidly deteriorated (cracks in the plastic under the fabric inserts) The Camry had weird bumper clip problems and they keep popping off. Camry's have had awful crap bumbers since 1997. I was never a fan of the Prius, but I had respect for the technological prowess. The actual vessel has always been butt-ugly no matter what generation, and that is coming from a Toyota fan. Thank god I still have my 1992 Camry V6 LE. I can feel that old Toyota goodness still. I don't feel it so much in my Mom/sister's cars. Why did they have to create such an obnoxiously ugly Prius model this time around?

  • Alan GM is still dying. The US auto manufacturing sector overall needs to restructure. It is heavily reliant on large protected vehicles with far more protection than the EU has on its vehicles (25% import tariff).Globally GM has lost out in the EU, UK, Australia, etc. GM has shut down in Australia because it is uncompetitive in a global market. Ford still exists in Australia but is reliant on a Thai manufactured pickup, the Ranger which is Australia's second largest selling vehicle.The US needs to look at producing global products, not 'murica only products. Asians and Europeans can do it. America is not unique.
  • Duane Baldinger Ya my cupcake Mailman will love it!
  • Duane Baldinger Where can I send the cash? It's a surprise BDAY present for my cupcake Mailman. D Duane
  • Art Vandelay Pour one out for the Motors Liquidation Corporation
  • Bill Wade Norm, while true I'll leave you with this. My 2023 RAM is running Android 8 released in 2017.My wife's navigation on her GM truck is a 2021 release, I believe the latest. Android Auto seems to update very week or two. Now, which would you rather have? Anybody with a car a couple of years old NEVER sees any updates. Heck, if your TV is a few years old it's dead on updates. At least cell phones are rapidly updated. If your old phone won't update, buy another $200 phone. If your GM vehicle doesn't update do what, buy another $50,000 GM vehicle?