Toyota Prius Sales Will Plunge In 2017

Timothy Cain
by Timothy Cain
toyota prius sales will plunge in 2017

2017 will be the fifth consecutive year of U.S. year-over-year sales decline for the venerable Toyota Prius.

The core member of the four-pronged Prius lineup — this non-Prime liftback — was once a seemingly unstoppable presence in America. Annual volume shot beyond 100,000 units in 2005 and rose to an all-time high of 181,221 sales in 2007.

But America’s post-recession enjoyment of lower fuel prices and an accompanying turn to SUVs and crossovers (plus a measure of distaste for the current model’s egregious exterior styling) led to a 98,866-unit U.S. sales result in 2016, a 12-year low for the Prius.

2017 will be worse. “We’re going to follow the market,” Toyota Motor Sales USA’s vice president for automotive operations, Bob Carter, told Wards Auto.

What’s that mean?

It means a 24-percent plunge to only 75,000 Prius sales in 2016.

There’s no expectation Prius sales should be as healthy now as they were in 2007. With the Prius family’s expansion and far more hybrid competition from virtually every automaker, the Prius can’t continue to earn maximum market share.

Of course, the entire Prius family never generated the level of demand Toyota expected, either. Initially hoping for 400,000 annual sales with the Prius, Prius Plug-In (now the Prius Prime), Prius C, and Prius V, the best year yet was 2012: 236,659 total sales.

Yet while Toyota projects a loss of roughly 24,000 Prius sales in 2017, greater Prius Prime availability will help pick up some of the slack. After months of inactivity, Toyota reported 781 Prius Prime sales in November; another 1,641 in December. While adding those Prime sales, however, Toyota lost 3,370 sales of the conventional Prius during the same period.

Toyota will also rely on increased demand for the RAV4 Hybrid in 2017. Self-congratulatorily crediting “almost impeccable” timing, Toyota’s Carter told Wards that in 2016, “people were coming out of the Prius, preferred a utility body, and here’s a vehicle that provides almost the same benefits, but with a utility body.”

The RAV4 Hybrid arrived in showrooms in late 2015. Toyota then sold 45,099 RAV4 Hybrids in the U.S. in 2016, but supply was limited. As Toyota ramps up RAV4 production in the hopes of selling more than 400,000 total RAV4s in 2017 — quite possibly enough for the RAV4 to become America’s best-selling SUV/crossover for the first time — the automaker wants the hybrid variant to account for at least 15 percent of all RAV4 sales, up from 13 percent in 2016.

Despite anticipated growth from the RAV4, plus the arrival of an all-new Camry, increased production of the Tacoma pickup truck, and growth across the light truck lineup, Toyota doesn’t expect to see overall U.S. sales growth in 2017.

You know where to cast the blame.


Especially the Prius.

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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  • Syncro87 Syncro87 on Jan 29, 2017

    I think the main reason Prius sales are down is cheap gas. Gas is barely over $2/gal in my area, and was around $1.60 there for a while. Nobody cares about the Prius until gas heads north of $3/gal US. The polarizing new body style doesn't help, but it is a distantly secondary reason for the car's recent sales decline, IMO. If the new Prius was an absolute stunner, I don't think sales would be dramatically higher than they are. There are good looking cars that don't sell. The Mazda6, for example, and arguably the 3. Most of the press was quite positive on the appearance of the Mazdas, and they are still sales also-rans. Good looking only counts for so much. I think people have overreacted to the styling. It isn't my favorite, but if my goal is maximum MPG combined with Toyota reliability, I couldn't care less what it looks like. If I want 50+ mpg, hatch, not too expensive, no hassle long term Toyota ownership experience, who cares about aesthetics. I don't. I'd almost pat Toyota on the back for at least trying to break out of the same looking car funk. Every SUV on the road is the same boring shape. Sedans, too. Seems like there are really very few cars that have take any styling risk at all. I have perhaps more respect for the guy driving a Prius than I do for someone driving an Equinox or Escape or any of the other boring same old SUV/CUVs that blend lemming-like into the landscape. At least the thing has SOME personality instead of being total vanilla. The Prius is a specialty car that occupies a relatively small niche in the market. It sells to a certain kind of person for certain reasons. I'm guessing that appearance is way down the list of reasons people buy a Prius.

  • Akear Akear on Jun 19, 2017

    Unlike GM, at least People still buy Toyota cars in quantity. Have you seen the horrendous sales figures for the new Malibu and Lacrosse. Bara must go.

  • Analoggrotto Knew about it all along but only now did the risk analysis tilt against leaving it there.
  • Mike Beranek Funny story about the '80 T-bird. My old man's Dart Sport had given up the ghost so he was car-shopping. He & I dropped my mom at a store and then went to the Ford dealer, where we test-drove the new T-Bird (with digital dash!)So we pull up to the store to pick mom up. She walks out and dad says "We just bought it.". Mom stares at the Mulroney- almost 13 grand- and just about fell over.Dad had not in fact bought the T-Bird, instead he got a Cordoba for only 9 grand.
  • EngineerfromBaja_1990 I'd love a well preserved Mark VII LSC with the HO 5.0 for a weekend cruiser. Its design aged better than both the VI and VIII. Although I'd gladly take the latter as well (quad cam V8 and wrap around interior FTW)
  • Teddyc73 The Mark VIII was the first car I lusted over as a young new auto enthusiast. Still think it's a beauty after all these years.
  • Art Vandelay wish They’d do an SS version of the Bolt. We need more electric hot hatches and this is a clean enough design that it would look good