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Hybrid, Battery-Car Sales Slumped in First Half of 2015

Demand shifts from small, efficient, to big and powerful.

by on Jul.02, 2015

Honda Civic Hybrid production ended last month.

At the beginning of 2014, when fuel prices seemed headed for new record highs, U.S. shoppers couldn’t drive off fast enough with small cars and alternative-power vehicles, such as the Toyota Prius and Nissan Leaf.

But with fuel costs down by at least $1 a gallon across the country, manufacturers have been struggling to sell those same, high-mileage vehicles. That’s forced them to stack up new incentives on the hood and, in some cases, slash production.

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That poses a challenge for the industry as it faces new fuel economy mandates for 2016 – with even tougher targets phasing in from now until 2025. Even so, automakers show little sign of retreating from the aggressive plans they’ve put in place to introduce new battery-based vehicles and other clean alternatives.

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Flood of New Hybrids Take Aim at Toyota Prius

Dominant Japanese model tops 3-million sales mark.

by on Jul.08, 2013

The Toyota Prius continues to dominate the hybrid segment...but it is facing some challenges this year.

Once a rare technology limited to a handful of – mostly Japanese – manufacturers, the industry is unleashing a flood of new hybrid vehicles for 2014 covering just about every niche on the market.  Automakers such as BMW, Ford and Hyundai hope their latest offerings will finally give them the momentum they need to take on the hybrid segment’s best-selling brand, Toyota, which underscored its dominance with the sale of its 3 millionth Prius last month.

For many potential buyers around the world, in fact, the Toyota Prius is no longer a niche vehicle.  The gas-electric hatchback may be the most popular hybrid in the U.S. – routinely outselling all other hybrids combined — but in Japan it is now the best-selling vehicle overall.

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“They’ve turned it into an iconic status of fuel efficiency – whether you love it or hate it,” says Dave Sullivan, automotive analyst with AutoPacific, Inc.  “It’s the benchmark of hybrids.”

That said, 2013 could be a challenging year for Prius. A senior Toyota official cautions that the hybrid might fall short of its sales targets, something that certainly wouldn’t upset competitors like Honda.

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California is Driving US Car Sales Rebound

Golden State buyers continue to overwhelmingly favor Asian brands.

by on Jan.25, 2013

With the addition of several new models, such as this Prius C, the Prius "family" comprised the best-selling nameplate in California last year.

The boom in auto sales gave the national economy a huge lift in 2012 and was critical in helping swing the industrial Midwest into Barack Obama’s camp during the 2012 presidential campaign.

But it turns out California — where gasoline prices were among the nation’s highest for much of the past year — was leading the boom in car sales. It was also at the cutting edge of the shift from conventional gasoline power to cleaner, higher mileage battery-based vehicles.  Significantly, the Toyota Prius became the state’s best-selling vehicle.

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But, as has been the case for a number of decades, foreign-owned brands, especially the Asians, topped the California sales charts, Kia, the increasingly stylish Korean carmaker, was the fastest growing brand, posting a 53% sales gain among California’s traditionally trend-conscious buyers.

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Sales Strong, Toyota Ramping Up Prius C Production

Maker moves 1,200 of the new hybrids in first 5 days.

by on Mar.21, 2012

Buoyed by near-record fuel prices, the new Toyota Prius C is exceeding initial sales expectations.

Toyota’s new Prius C is proving to be the little hybrid that could – and that’s leading the automaker to ramp up production of the newest member of its Prius “family.”

The C is a compact gas-electric model that went on sale earlier this month, joining the original Prius hatchback and the larger Prius V introduced last year – with a plug-in version of the original Prius to follow later this year.

With a base price of $19,710, the Prius C is the least-expensive full hybrid on the market and the only compact to share the familiar Prius badge.  That’s significant in a market that has – despite near-record fuel prices – so far been reluctant to embrace hybrids, the technology last year accounting for less than 3% of total U.S. new vehicle sales, but the Prius badge emblazoned on one of every two hybrids purchased in the country.

(Click Here for our Toyota Prius C  review.)

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The timing of the Prius C launch could not have been better, analysts say, and the new model generated 1,200 sales in just its first five days on the market – albeit many of those customers had placed orders some time back and were simply waiting for delivery.  While it remains to be seen if the momentum will be maintained, Toyota appears to be quite optimistic.

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Toyota Reports Dealers Down to 4 days of Prius Inventory

Though overall hybrid sales sliding, Toyota officials hope for strong launch of new Prius v.

by on Jun.21, 2011

The debut of the Prius v has been pushed back about two months because of the Japanese earthquake.

While its factories are rapidly getting back up to full speed following the devastating March earthquake in Japan, Toyota dealers are struggling to meet demand for the popular Prius with barely a “three to four-day supply” of the world’s best-selling hybrid model, a senior official said.

 

By comparison, makers consider a 50 to 60-day supply to be normal for most products.  The shortfall likely resulted in a 30 to 40% shortfall in sales of the Prius during May, said Toyota’s hybrid marketing manager Ed LaRoque.

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The crisis, which all but shut down Toyota production the first month after the March disaster—and continues to leave its plants running below capacity — has also forced the maker to delay the launch of its new Prius v, the first in a “family” of hybrids to share the same brand identity as the original Toyota model.  According to La Roque, the debut of the v, a larger, wagon-like take on the familiar hybrid sedan, will be “a few months behind,” and probably won’t reach U.S. showrooms until around October. The maker is meanwhile hoping to start rebuilding supplies of the original Prius over the next several months.

 

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Toyota Already Planning Production Increase of New Prius V Hybrid

Dealer orders outstrip Toyota projections - but will consumer demand keep pace?

by on Jun.08, 2011

Toyota CEO Akio Toyoda with the Prius V.

Strong, early demand is leading Toyota to sharply increase production of its all-new Prius V hybrid, the second model in an all-new brand-within-a-brand of gas-electric vehicles.

The maker – still struggling with production cuts due to the March 11 Japanese earthquake and tsunami – hopes to start rolling out 5,000 of the Prius V hybrid wagons by August or September, up from initial plans to build 3,000 a month.

Toyota is hoping that the Prius V will help sales of its hybrid models rebound from an unexpected slowdown in the key U.S. market once it goes on sale in the fall.

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Known in the U.S. as the Prius V, but sold elsewhere as the Prius Alpha, the new hybrid will be the second model to bear the familiar Prius badge.  Toyota plans to create an entire line-up of gas-electric models sharing the Prius name, including a small hybrid, tentatively dubbed Prius C, due to reach market about a year from now.  A plug-in version of the original Prius will also be introduced in 2012, and the maker hints other hybrid models could follow.

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Toyota Sells 1 millionth Prius in U.S.

Demand up - but so are prices, as shortages loom.

by on Apr.06, 2011

Toyota CEO Akio Toyoda with the Prius V hybrid during the Detroit Auto Show preview of the microvan.

Toyota Motor Sales has reported the one-millionth sale of the Toyota Prius, the first mass-produced gas-electric hybrid vehicle sold in the United States.

“Since the Prius went on sale eleven years ago not a year has gone by when it hasn’t been the number one selling hybrid vehicle in the U.S.,” said Bob Carter, Toyota Division group vice president and general manager.

Prius has become synonymous with the word hybrid, Toyota suggest, and as fuel prices have risen again, it has garnered a full 60% of the American market for gas-electric vehicles — but prices have gone up sharply, along with demand and the crisis in Japan could soon leave the maker short of demand.

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Though Prius remains the leader, the executive noted, it is now facing more competition than ever. Today, 13 different brands offer some form of gas-electric model, and most of the remaining marques, such as Volvo, plan to enter the market with some sort of hybrid offering within the next several years.

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Small Car and Hybrid Sales Struggle – Yet a Few Models Exceed Expectations

Toyota Prius, Lincoln MKZ are the rare, hot hybrids.

by on Mar.29, 2011

Demand for the 2011 Lincoln MKZ Hybrid has significantly exceeded expectations.

With fuel prices nudging $4 a gallon again, the first time that has happened since the energy crisis of mid-2008, industry observers had been anticipating a sharp run-up in small car and hybrid sales.

With rare exception, it isn’t happening.  Indeed, demand for pickups and big SUVs soared during February, even fuel prices made a rapid run-up.  That follows a modest decline in the fuel economy of the average vehicle sold in the U.S. last year.

But there are a few bright spots for those hoping to see Americans embrace more fuel efficient products.

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The Toyota Prius experienced a 47% surge in demand during the first two months of 2011, and indications are that this sales boom has continued in March.  The other exception is the Lincoln MKZ Hybrid, the first gasoline-electric model offered by Ford Motor Co.’s luxury marque, which is handily outselling the automaker’s most optimistic expectations.

Nearly one in four of the MKZ sedans sold so far this year have come equipped with a battery-electric driveline, 762 hybrids out of the 3,343 MKZ models so far sold.

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