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Toyota’s 1 millionth Prius: What does it mean?

Today, Toyota announced that it has officially sold one million Prii (yes, that’s the plural of Prius) in the United States. The eleven-year-old has gone through three makeovers and remains the top selling hybrid in the world. This is wonderful news for Toyota and its dealers, especially in the wake of the tsunami last month. But I can’t help but wonder, “What does this mean for America’s automotive marketplace altogether?”

This isn’t the first time I’ve talked about the “green movement dilemma.” Read my earlier post It’s not easy being green for my thoughts in February of last year. I have long believed that the marketplace should drive what manufacturers produce, but could the sale of the one millionth Prius mean that us blue-blooded, oil-thirsty Americans actually want more hybrids and fuel efficient vehicles? Could this be the turning point toward oil independence? The solid showing of green concept vehicles and technologies throughout the 2011 circuit of auto shows would lead one to believe that the answer is YES.

I want to know what you, my faithful readers, think. Please share your thoughts on the growing hybrid vehicle marketplace in the comments below. Thoughts to get you started:

  • Will the Prius forever reign as the hybrid king?
  • Which hybrids make sense and which are a waste of the technology (um, like the Suburban)?
  • Would you/are you consider/ing a hybrid vehicle for your next vehicle purchase?
  • How has your opinion of “green” cars evolved in the past few years?

Thanks for sharing your thoughts – I look forward to reading your responses!

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Melanie Batenchuk

6 Responses to “Toyota’s 1 millionth Prius: What does it mean?”

  1. I blame the i-buyers. At first glance you think – Ahh, oil prices must be driving this trend. Not the case. In 2005 the sale of Prii doubled. If I recall oil was cheap and money was flowing thanks to open credit lines and over-inflated home prices (meaning more lines of equity). Yes sir, the world was buzzing with growth and cheap oil – yet people started to buy more of these hybrids. Why? Here is my theory. Three things happened:Green was now cooler than ever. This car was a symbol of your devotion to being eco-friendly. It was the responsible thing to do. Government incentives were flowing, along with corporate ones as well.Tech worked. Yep, the skeptical people on the sidelines started to realize, hey this thing works. It does what it says it will do. Combine the Toyota’s are invincible (when you can stop them) with the proven reliability of the Prii and you’ve got a win-win for the generally curious consumer.Lastly – we’ve gone automotive soulless. Thats right. We have no passion for what a car means or looks like or even the dynamics of how it drives. Companies like BMW are starting to realize that hence their latest move to the i-line and FWD lineup. They need to tout economy and cool whiz-bang gadgetry. People, and I use the term lightly given my distaste for this crowd, are more and more making their purchase based on their need for a point A-to-B car. This downward spiral in design intrigue, performance prowess or even general dynamics is numbing the industry. Keep in mind, cars are built on an economy of scale. If the vast majority of buyers want tech-heavy appliances – thats what the market will produce. To the rest of the folks looking for a tail-friendly 400+ horsepower +1 G saloon – those will soon join the ranks of the higher priced prancing horses or P-cars from DE. As demand for performance vehicles are overtaken by yuppies and Gen-Y’ers – the small percentage of us still wanting, I should say needing, a car that excites us both visually and physically (yes, cars are aphrodisiac to some of us) will pay the ultimate price.

    • Melanie Batenchuk

      Juan – Thanks for sharing your thoughts here. I definitely understand what you’re saying about the blandness that has swept automotive design in the last few years. But, thankfully, I think we’re on the upswing of that now. Just take a look at the new Hyundai Elantra – I mean, who ever would have thought it’d be one of the most forward-thinking designed econo-compacts on the market?And to play devil’s advocate – and I realize this may be a difficult concept to envision as an auto feen – but not everyone really cares what car they drive. Some people are just satisfied to have a reliable set of 4 wheels that gets them from point A to B and doesn’t break down. However, with that being said – why not provide those people something that’s good-looking and fun to drive – all for less that $20,000?

  2. I will try to be short in this answer, but I would love to talk hours and hours about this.I would rephrase your first question in the following way: Should all the hybrids be named Prius instead of hybrids? Prius is such a strong brand that Toyota is making it a master brand. Even if a future hybrid delivers the same, or better performance than the Prius, it will remain the king given to its first mover advantage and its brand equity.There are two types of hybrids: hybrids and mild-hybrids, the difference? The hybrids (such as the Prius) deliver a significative portion of its combined power train power from its electric engine… in english that means that 50% of the HPs they deliver come from the electric side. The mild hybrids just deliver a small portion (10% to 20%), such as Honda´s IMA technology, etc… Unfortunately this is not regulated, so you can claim it is a “Hybrid” either way; and it affects you as a customer because you expect a Hybrid benefit (higher MPG) but you finish paying more for an MPG that you can get now with a cheaper conventional vehicle (and more room for legs). Customers are becoming more aware of this, thus I would say that a Hybrid that makes sense should deliver around 50MPG or more.Yes, I will consider a hybrid or plug-in hybrid for my future car :) Electric could make sense if I can travel around the country without worrying about charging it at a Level II station (or in 4 hours).I have been always Pro of the green cars! However the market is still too fragmented so only early adopters are getting on it… this is the main marketing challenge for the auto manufacturers! They also need to be more honest with the customer, a 30ish MPG city grade does not match a 50 MPG combined grade… and this should be part of their integrated marketing communications strategy.

    • I have a typo in my last paragraph, it should say ” a 30ish MPG highway grade” instead of “city grade”

    • Melanie Batenchuk

      Carlos – Great thoughts here as well. I’m glad to hear that you’re such a fan of green cars. I must admit that I haven’t 100% hopped on the bandwagon. Although, if I had the budget, I’d go out and buy the new Lexus CT200h right now. Now, that’s a wagon I can get into!!It’s a bit of a conundrum because the Administration is pushing for 1 million plug-in hybrid vehicles on the road by 2015, but we just don’t have the infrastructure (power grid, charging stations, urban charging capabilities) to handle it. It will certainly be interesting to see how the green movement plays out.

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