theReactor

November 4th, 2010

Good News: Prius Sells 2 Million Vehicles, The Bad News…

By Kent Harrington | Comments (8)
The Good News: A recent Toyota press release celebrated a milestone: 2 million Prius hybrids have been sold world-wide since the brand was first launched in Japan 1997. It later began selling in Europe and North American in 2000. Deep-stats: Toyota reached the first 1 million mark 2 years ago. The second million sold quickly over the last two years. (It helps to expand to more than 70 countries.) Sales are definitely accelerating, and a Japanese salaryman would get a little punch drunk extrapolating these sales trends. Of course, keep in mind that many countries and states boast sales with subsidies. According to Toyota:
Worldwide Prius sales have been buoyed since 2009 by the introduction in Japan of a government subsidy for green cars that propelled Prius to be the top-selling car in Japan for 17 months in a row. In 2007, sales in Japan represented 21% of all Prius sales worldwide and in 2008, 26%. In 2009, that share jumped to 52%, and for Jan-Sep 2010, the figure is 63%.
Should these stats receive an asterix like a steroid-addled home run hitter. If so, does that make the Pruis the Mark McGuire of global car sales?
Conversely, North America accounted for 65% of worldwide Prius sales in 2007; 57% in 2008; 36% in 2009; and 26% for Jan-Sep 2010. The subsidy expired on 7 September, and Prius sales in Japan fell 14.2% on the year to 27,249 units for the month.
The Bad News... I'm sure drivers are dancing in the streets of Santa Monica over Prius' sales numbers. But when you compare them to U.S. truck sales, it's obvious that hybrid and electric vehicles are still a niche brand, and the stats show just how far away they are from mass market penetration. Automotive blog Jalopnik created the chart above pointing out that while 2 million prius' were sold worldwide, they were trounced by the 34 million pick-up trucks sold just in the United States. Deep stats: Starting in 2004, trucks sales started to fall, rapidly accelerating through 2007 and 2008. And of course, fell even further through 2010. It culminated in the lowest sales since 1992. Long-term sales data from AutoPacfic: Although these stats look fairly dismal, some things never change. According to Pickup.com:
Despite the biggest sales drop in decades, however, some things haven't changed. The Ford F-Series and Chevrolet Silverado continued to occupy the top two sales positions among all cars and trucks in the U.S.—the same spots they were in last year—beating the Toyota Camry, Honda Accord and Toyota Corolla, which rounded out the top five. The Dodge Ram finished eighth.
Since 2010 seems to the year of the hybrid with the introduction of the Nissan Leaf and the Chevy Volt, I'm sure hybrid/EV sales will continue to climb. Unfortunately, it will be years before we finally hit a tipping point.

Would you spend more for a hybrid or EV to make a small difference in global warming?

Photo: white Prius: Mytho88 creative commons Photo: truck: Chevrolet Silverado: IFCAR Public Domain Prius Stats from Jalopniklicensed under a Creative Commons License Pick-up Truck Stats (for non-commercial use) via Cars.com

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8 Responses to “Good News: Prius Sells 2 Million Vehicles, The Bad News…”

  1. ehorahan says:

    Honda recently came out with a sport hybrid – the CR-X. It should be interesting to see how it does in the market – I was a big fan until I realized that like most sport cars, these aren't made for the very tall. Definately worth a test drive though!

  2. Ross Topliff says:

    I willing paid the premium for a Honda Civic Hybrid in 2006. I have been concerned with the declining state of our environment for many years and this is a small part of my contribution.

    I am often amazed when I see a hybrid speed by me on the highway. These drivers appear to be more concerned with saving a couple minutes than additional fuel savings. The mpg guages on these cars show clearly the impact of driving even 5 mph slower.

  3. Robert S says:

    I also have been curious to see how the CR-X is going to perform (both on the street and in the marketplace). I bought a 2001 Prius based on 2 main points. With the tax benefits the math made sense (cheaper in the long run to own and operate) and to support the new technology. It is still running well after 9 years, but my thoughts have evolved a bit.

    Without subsidies or high fuel prices, there is a premium for the hybrids. I would still be willing to pay a little premium in support of developing the technology since I think this is the more viable option. Straight EV cars has some severe long term limitations. Beyond the performance and infrastructure issues the "cleanliness" of this technology is wholly dependent on the source of the electricity used to charge the battery.

    Hybrids capture wasted energy from what is likely a well tuned, reasonably clean running engine. My opinion that this is more effective.

    As to whether I would make the same choice today if I was to buy a new car….I am not sure. I have some unanswered questions. How much energy savings are actually seen with a hybrid? There is less fuel used in operation, but what about the life cycle. For example, the Ni for the battery is mined in Ontario then has to be shipped to Japan and then shipped to the US. How much gas do you have to save to counter that? Is it better in the long run to by an efficient traditional car, drive it efficiently (lower speeds, smooth start/stop), and keep it well maintained?

    I haven't seen any numbers on these questions, just thoughts that I have had.

  4. fxgeorges says:

    Well to put it into perspective, the Prius reached 1M in 2008. Toyota has sold more than 30 million Corollas in its near 40 year lifespan. I recall the one millionth Corolla was built in 1990 in the NUMMI plant.

    • ehorahan says:

      I believe the Nummi plant shut down right? I think it was the plant that was bought by Elon Musk to house Tesla (interesting circle there… the plant that built the one millionth corolla is now building all electric vehicles).

      Wired magazine had a great article about Tesla and reviews of several electric cars a few issues ago – it was really interesting! If I had money coming out my ears I would be all over the Tesla Roadster (245 miles on one charge! whereas most EV on the market get 100 or less)
      The Model S looks pretty sweet too. It will be interesting to see how the Electric Car market evolves – and Robert, great point about "where does the electricity come from?" Thats the big question that not alot of consumers know to think about.

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