Prius is the Worst Performing Car in Sales... Hardly ~ Hybrid Car Review
Hybrid Car Review: Prius is the Worst Performing Car in Sales... Hardly

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Prius is the Worst Performing Car in Sales... Hardly

According to a Treehugger post (Worst Sales Performance of Any Car: Toyota Prius : TreeHugger)

What is the worst performing car (in sales) in America in November? The Prius.
There are a couple of problems with that claim. First, they only look at the most popular cars and trucks, so claiming the Prius is the worst performing car is over the top.

Sales are Bad
Not that a 48% sales decline is anything to be happy about.

But at the same time, this is an indication of how numbers can lie. Having kept track of hybrid sales for a couple of years now, I think I can understand why the numbers are declining on the Prius.

First, the cost of gas has gone way down in the past month. That alone should relieve some of the pressure on more fuel economic cars. Until gas prices go up, at least some people are going to be opting for less fuel efficient cars.

The Prius may be the most inexpensive full hybrid on the road to buy right now, but that doesn't make it cheap to buy. It's price puts it above the line for a lot people.  In the current economy, anything that might be considered a luxury is being put off.

Also, despite the downturn in sales, hybrids are not getting discounted. I've even seen some reports of dealerships charging more than the asking price, even now. Other cars are getting discounts and special financing deals, but not hybrids.

The Prius is about to move into a next generation. For those who know, waiting until the next generation Prius is on the road is a smart move.

One last point (and this may be the biggest one).  Last November, sales on hybrids (not just the Prius) were up 82%.  The Prius was up by 109%!  After moving their Camry Hybrid production into Kentucky, Toyota was able to increase production of the Prius and November's sales showed how well they were doing in filling in the back orders they had.

Prius is Still at the Top
Despite all the downward pressure on car sales, the Prius is still one of the top selling cars in the US.  Toyota has very little inventory on the Prius. They are selling the ones they have, without any attempt to increase production. To put it simply, Toyota is selling every Prius they make.

If we take the list at Treehugger at face value, it's #16 on the list of all cars, trucks and SUVs.  If we just restrict to cars, it's in the top 10.   Sales are down 10% on the year.  I wonder how many other cars can say that's all they're down.

I'd have to say Treehugger Lloyd Alter is getting this one wrong. I know his point is how Ford and GM aren't exactly getting everything wrong as compared to Toyota or Honda. But that doesn't mean his claims about the Prius are right.

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Anonymous said...

You make some very good points here and I have updated my post with a link to you here. My main argument continues to be that the American manufacturers were perfectly capable of making small efficient cars (they do in Europe) but the market didn't want them.

Unknown said...

Thanks for the link Lloyd.

And you're absolutely right. The US public doesn't want diesels in large numbers, making it hard for car manufacturers to raise their fuel economy numbers in North America.

I'm not convinced that the public doesn't want fuel efficient cars, though. Look at the sales numbers for the top 5 vehicles on your list. The Camry, Civic and Corolla show there is a market and has been one for some time. It's easy to get blinded by the Big Three numbers getting skewed by the big trucks and SUVs on the list.

Anonymous said...

i can't believe a blogger for treehugger just said that the "market didn't want them."

not trying to be mean, but that's asinine. same exact thing the george shultz said a few months ago.

this, in spite of all the evidence:
* who killed the electric car?
* intentionally-underpowered and ugly electric cars from the manufacturers.
* failure to produce electric cars regularly.
* killed off any promising battery technology.
* deep discounts on american autos, including 2-for-1 deals in Florida.

the list goes on and on. but whatever you do, don't believe in conspiracy theories. adam smith was a fool when he suggested they go on all the time.

Anonymous said...

Everyone is critizing GM for not building the right vehicles. Our sales are down 40% because GM is not building the cars people want. Well they wanted the SUV's and trucks for a very long time. Then they didn't want SUV's. Now they don't want the Prius! I think the point to be made here is that the Detroit 3 were blind sided by the huge run up in gas price. Now the Prius is being blind side by the slide down in gas price.

Unknown said...

I wouldn't say the Prius is getting blindsided by the downturn, so much as all cars are. The Prius is right where it was in the 'standings' for sales. Yes, the numbers are down for the Prius this month (and for the past few months), but that just means it's still in line with all of the other cars.

But otherwise, I agree with you.

Anonymous said...

The assertion that US buyers don't want fuel efficient car based on the fact diesels aren't selling is bogus.

With gasoline at $1.70 and diesel fuel at $2.52, a 170 hp 25 mpg gasoline IC car would have the same performance/fuel economy as a 170 hp 37 mpg diesel vehicle. (mpg's are combined city/highway)

Unfortunately there no 170 hp diesel vehicles that get 37 mpg (combined). That means equating apples with apples, diesels in this country have worse fuel economy than do gasoline fueled cars.

So there's nothing wrong with US buyers, but there is plenty wrong with the price of diesel fuel in this country.

Since diesel fuel is presently taxed more heavily than gasoline, we should be able to improve the situation by adjusting (or eliminating) diesel taxes at the pump. And by sparking investment in more diesel fuel refining capacity, we may be able enable diesel powered cars to be sufficiently fuel efficient to compete with gasoline powered vehicles.

Anonymous said...

a diesel car tends to have a lot of low end torgue, so you cannot use gas hp as equivalent to diesel hp when comparing two cars.

onno said...

I think the poor sales numbers are because dealerships wont budge on the hybrid prices. They want to get the trucks and suv's off the lot so they more than willing to negotiate. They know people want to save money by getting a hybrid so they stand firm on those prices. Thanks for the info. I hope these trends shift back, but also think this shows that our focus in 2009 needs to be on the low-hanging fruit of efficiency upgrades in cars, nsulation, lighting, etc.

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