The sales figures for the auto industry were recently released, and the news is good…as long as you’re not Toyota. Despite this, Toyota execs expects Prius-badged vehicles to be the best sellers in America by 2020.
Toyota has not hidden the fact that it is working on a line of vehicles bearing the Prius name, including an upcoming MPV and possibly a crossover or coupe later on. The Prius is, by far, the best-selling hybrid vehicle in America and the rest of the world. Bob Carter, Toyota America’s VP of Sales, told Automotive News that the Prius nameplate will be the #1 selling vehicle in the U.S. by the end of the decade. That’s a pretty tall order to fill, and I’m extremely doubtful of Toyota’s prospects.
Why? First, let’s look at some hard numbers. The top-selling vehicle in America, for the 34th-straight year, is the Ford F-series pickups, which sold over 528,000 trucks in 2010. Ford as a whole sold enough vehicles to regain the #2 spot in America from Toyota. In fact, Toyota (including Lexus and Scion) is the only company to have lost sales compared to the dismal sales of 2009. Not a good sign.
Faltering sales aren’t the only reason for Toyota to be worried though. They may have the world’s best-selling hybrid, but one of the main reasons is that the Prius was the only game in town for a better part of the past decade. Not for long. The Nissan Leaf and Chevy Volt are now being delivered to eager customers, and a lot of electric cars and hybrids from major automakers and start-ups alike will be hitting the road in the next five to ten years.
People are going to have a lot more choices aside from the Prius, and even Toyota fans are looking outside of the brand after the past year’s debacles. Toyota’s massive recalls and the still-unresolved unintended acceleration issue have lost it a lot of good will with its legion of loyal followers (the uninformed media hype didn’t help either.) It isn’t just Toyota’s missteps that are costing it sales though; despite Detroit’s bankruptcy woes, American buyers are feeling more patriotic in their automotive purchases and are giving Ford, GM, and even Chrysler more serious consideration than in previous years. American car sales are on the rise, and prospects look good.
For all my doubts though, Prius sales are up. The Prius posted its best-ever December, moving over 15,000 units last month and over 140,000 total units for 2010, or 8% of Toyota’s total U.S. sales. That’s a 0.9% increase over 2009, despite overall Toyota sales being down, and the Camry and Corolla still managed to take the 3rd and 5th best-selling vehicle positions for 2010, so Toyota is still sitting pretty with a lot of people. And with a Prius plug-in, MPV, and other vehicles on the way, I don’t see Toyota having a problem holding on to the #1 hybrid sales position. But best-selling vehicle in America? That’s a lofty branch Toyota is reaching for.
Source: Automotive News
Chris DeMorro is a writer and gearhead who loves all things automotive, from hybrids to Hemis. You can follow his slow descent into madness at Sublime Burnout.