Prius: Still Moving Up
“That Prius. It’s just a flash in the pan. Once the greenies and the trendy people buy theirs, that’s it. It won't sell.”
So, how did all that work out for those who thought that the notion of a hybrid-electric vehicle, one that has, let’s face it, somewhat quirky styling, would be merely a gimmick?
Not only has the Prius become the hybrid by which all others are measured by—including Toyota’s own—but it has, in many ways, become the definition of hybrid.
And guess what? While the aforementioned groups of people have undoubtedly already purchased one or more of the cars, the vehicle continues on and on.
In the Toyota sales numbers for September, it turns out that the flash in the pan--which now includes the v and c variants and a plug-in--is burning bright as its sales were 18,932 units, up from 9,325 units in September '11. To be sure, the natural disaster in Japan last year had more than a little something to do with the low number last year. But it is interesting to see that as gasoline prices in the U.S. have risen this year, so too have the sales of the Prius.
Now a number like 18,932 may not be all that meaningful in and of itself. So it might be interesting to note that in September '12, Cadillac Division sold a total 12,579 cars and trucks. Everything. The margins were probably better, though.
For the year, the GM division has sold 103,512 units. There have been 183,340 Priuses sold.
To be more down to earth, let's compare the Prius to the Chevy Malibu. While there are those variants of the Prius beyond the midsized hatch, so there's upside to the Prius numbers, the Malibu numbers in September--11,188--are not so good versus the 18,932.
The good news for Malibu is that the delta between the year-to-date sales between the two models is not so great: 179,465 Malibus vs. 183,340 Priuses.
And in case you're wondering, there were 12,300 Ford Fusions sold in September (though remember the 2013 model is now rolling into dealerships, so the lowish number isn't all that bad). And Fusion year-to-date sales are greater than those of Prius: 194,165.
The point here: is there still any question about the viability and market interest in hybrid technology? Still?
Hyundai enters the American market with a new parallel hybrid system that uses lithium-polymer batteries and the same six-speed automatic found in non-hybrid versions of the 2011 Sonata.
Although the term “continuous improvement” is generally associated with another company, Honda is certainly pursuing that approach, as is evidenced by the Accord, which is now in its ninth generation.
Lithium-ion batteries have become the technology of choice for EVs, and falling costs and rising energy levels could keep them on top for nearly two decades.