Op-Ed: The Toyota Prius is Falling Behind


It is lonely at the top, and Toyota is no stranger to criticisms these days. Even as sales remain strong, Toyota’s lineup is falling behind the times, including the much vaunted Prius “brand.”

I was there to see the Prius plug-in and Prius V unveiled at the Detroit Auto Show, and I was unimpressed to say the least. The time to unveil a bigger Prius for families was five years ago, and with a combined 42 mpg, the Prius V isn’t exactly groundbreaking. The Toyota Prius has been on the market for over a decade; why did it take so damn long for somebody to figure out “Oh, this small hybrid could use more cargo room.” Duh. And you would think with all the time it took to bring this to market, it’d have as good gas mileage as the regular Prius, right? Wrong. It has a combined mileage of just 42 mpg. Is that really so great?

My problem isn’t just with the Prius V though; the Prius Plug-in offers a scant 13 miles of all-electric range. Compared to other plug-in hybrids, this is disappointing. The Volt offers 25 to 50 miles, the Volvo V60 concept offers 32 miles, and with more plug-ins on the way the Prius’s numbers just don’t add up. Yes, it should be capable of around 60 mpg, but for what price? I guess I just figured that, with a decade head start over every other carmaker (save for Honda) in the world in hybrid technology, Toyota would have something a little more impressive by 2011.

Alas, they have not. All of the sudden, the Prius’s 50 mpg rating doesn’t seem so lofty as four compact cars from key rivals. The Ford Fiesta and 2012 Ford Focus, the 2011 Hyundai Elantra, the Chevy Cruze Eco and  2012 Honda Civic all achieve at least 40 mpg highway without hybrid technology. Meanwhile, the 2012 Honda Civic Hybrid gets 45 mpg…just a few mpg’s shy of the Prius, and somehow Nissan beat Toyota to the punch with the first mass-market electric vehicle. In a matter of just two years, most automakers have closed the mpg gap with the Prius. In ten years the Prius combined mileage has gone from 41 mpg in 2001 to 51 mpg in 2011. That is a 25% improvement, which sounds good except that the Prius has nothing else to recommend it except its exceptional gas mileage, and 50 mpg just doesn’t seem all that impressive right now, and I haven’t even mentioned any of the awesome diesels the Europeans get.

50% more cargo room just won't cut it these days

It is only a matter of time before some upstart hybrid or diesel takes away the Prius’s MPG crown Toyota pulls a fuel efficient rabbit out of its hat. The Prius is by and far the best-selling hybrid in America and the world, though these days I feel it is getting by more on its name then its own credentials. The car market of 2011 is much different from the car market of 2001, when the Prius debuted. Automakers aren’t focusing on huge SUV’s but rather fuel efficient small cars. There are now over a dozen different choices for somebody wanting a car with around 40 mpg, many of them cheaper then the Prius while offering a lot more in the way of styling and fun, at least to me.

I haven’t even touched upon the millions of recalls Toyota has been forced to make in the last year, or the irreparable blow its reputation took due to the unintended acceleration debacle. In Toyota’s defense, every case of unintended acceleration was caused by driver error, not some electrical gremlin. Then again, I don’t think Toyota deserved its reputation for reliability in the first place, between engines ruined by “gunk” and rusty truck frames (which Toyota managed to shift the blame to the supplier) Toyota vehicles have had just as many problems as any other brand. People are just now starting to see that, and it does not bode well for Toyota.

The stagnation of the Prius is representitive of the entire Toyota brand. The youth-branded Scion is in desperate need of new products, every Lexus (save the LFA) is merely a tarted up Toyota, and the Prius “brand” is a day late and a dollar short compared to other automakers. These days, Toyota vehicles only appeal to boring people (yes I called you boring), people who care about only two things in a car; reliability and fuel efficiency. There is nothing exciting in the Toyota lineup, and while they’ve focused on expanding the Prius brand, the Prius itself suddenly seems very vulnerable.

Since the Prius is the closest thing Toyota has to a halo car right now, and as such, it should be at the forefront of cutting edge technology and fuel efficiency. The Prius is at risk of losing both of those titles to up and comers, and as General Motors has proven, a well-known name will only get you so far. Toyota needs to step its game up with the Prius and offer more then 50% more cargo room and 13 miles of EV range if it wants to stay competitive in the coming years. Judging from how long it took Toyota to figure out people want more cargo room, if Toyota does fall behind the mpg race, I’m not sure the Japanese juggernaut will ever be able to catch up.

I’m sure there are plenty of Toyota apologists and defenders out there ready to jump down my throat…and by all means do. All I ask is that if you disagree with me or other commentators, keep it civil. Otherwise I’ll just delete your comments. So fire away, and keep in mind that you should never take anything I say too seriously.

Chris DeMorro is a writer and gearhead who loves all things automotive, from hybrids to HEMI’s. You can follow his slow descent into madness at Sublime Burnout.

About the Author

A writer and gearhead who loves all things automotive, from hybrids to HEMIs, can be found wrenching or writing- or else, he’s running, because he’s one of those crazy people who gets enjoyment from running insane distances.

  • Topic for discussion: Oh Yes Jay Rockefeller

    Well no surprise that politicians practice the duality of man so very well.

    Only a year ago Jay Rockefeller sat or at least was part of some very serious committee hearing regarding Toyota.

    Problems with Toyota Motors (USA) continue but a chance photo opportunity for jobs is nothing less than a deal with the devil himself. If Jay Rockefeller thinks that 40 jobs handed out by Toyota today is going to fix this economy he is wrong.

    This is nothing more than a “chump change” gesture.

    Further Toyota-Lexus being a smart business realizes that the “Baby Boomers” are in decline as purchasers.

    Toyota’s produce falls far short of market competition with the Corolla and Matrix models with value.

    Thus they are now moving plants to other more lucrative and emerging markets such as India, China and Indonesia as of late media reports.

    Ron & Lori Eves (Parents of deceased Chris Eves)
    2007 Toyota Tundra

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  • While agree with you that I expected much more from Toyota than the Prius V you are doing what everybody seems to do these days: twisting reality your way. You are comparing apples with oranges. Any of the compact cars you compare are usually used in the city. So please do not compare the city fuel economy of the Prius V with the highway consumption of these gasoline powered cars. Just sounds like their commercials: 40 mpg highway. That does not mean much. All of these cars have a city mpg of less than 30. Compare this to the Prius Vs 42 mpg. That is the reality. In addition whether you like wagons or not fact is that none of these small cars come any where close to the Prius V when it comes to space. What is really disappointing however is that the Prius V will be sold in Europe next year as a seven seater. So all of us families looking for a seven seater with lower mileage will still be stuck for years with minivans with combined mpgs of less than 25 or that Toyota Highlander hybrid with a pathetic mpg of 20/25. In addition let’s compare cars that will soon be actually available and not just concepts. If true the Prius V will be the only car on the market with space and low mileage from this summer on. With fuel prices going up again I predict it will be a huge seller.

    • @ Marcus

      I totally get what you are saying in regards to the highway mileage against the Prius. But let me ask you for a minute; when your average customer hears “40 mpg highway” do you think they say to themselves “Oh what does it do for city mileage?” or “Holy crap 40 mpg!”

      I’d be a fool if I said Toyota was a bad company. They aren’t, not by a long shot. However, I think there is something wrong when it takes almost a decade for Toyota to figure out the Prius needs a wagon version. Furthermore, the fact that regular compact cars are now getting 40 mpg highway makes the Prius’s 51 mpg highway rating just not all that impressive.

      If you want to boil this whole post down to one statement, it would be this; Toyota has squandered a decade lead in hybrid vehicle technology, and if they don’t get their collective ass in gear, they risk falling behind in a segment they essentially created.

      • Christopher,

        Well, I do not think that either I or you or the readership you are writing for are average customers. We do know better and should not just repeat the industries slogans. They play it really well. In fact I have not been able to find out the city mileage of the new 2012 Honda Civic HF. They only give the highway mileage and every news outlet is repeating it, all over the web.

        I completely agree with you. Toyota could be much further and others are catching up. However, I know a little bit about business and marketing. I am sure they know exactly where their competitors are and they will only do exactly what is needed to just to stay ahead of the crowd. Let’s not get fooled by all these reports of recent auto shows and how green they are. They are not. The vast majority of these care will not be available for years and the ones that are available are often luxury cars with high profit margins and low sales volume. It’s all about money and only that. Not enough profit? No new model. It is cannibalizing into the sales of my existing models? No new model. It will happen and the way I see it Toyota will be well positioned to respond. But I agree with you they could be much further ahead.

        • I’m surprised no one has touched on this yet, but this isn’t about Toyota’s tech stagnating, and it isn’t about Toyota knowing exactly where their competitors are (hint: they’re a closed, secretive bunch – and that veil blocks visibility both ways). No, this is about A STRONG YEN. The Prius is a Japanese built car, as are many Lexus/Toyota models – even Scions. In order to stay cost-competetive with the Koreans and Americans (and, let’s face it, Mexican and Canadian-built cars) they have to cut content. De-contenting in the tech department, when you’re already out ahead, is the easy decision.

  • While I’ll agree that Toyota’s brand has stagnated of late, I disagree that recalls have caused irreparable harm. Toyota’s owner loyalty is as high as ever, and news from Edmunds.com and KBB tell us that the consideration rate for Toyota is as good as it used to be. If the recalls have done any harm at all, it has been to increase incentive spending. Something that will be corrected with new models in 2-4 years.

    Moving on to your main point – that Toyota hasn’t done enough to the Prius to inspire you – I would submit that:

    1. 50 mpg is “only” 25% better than the nearest non-hybrid competitor and 10% better than the nearest hybrid. If being 10-25% better isn’t enough for you, consider the rest of the industry.

    2. Toyota could have brought a wagon version of the Prius to market sooner, but that’s not how they do things. Incremental improvements and enhancements lead to great products. Chevy and Nissan are the first to bring plugins to market, but will they be better? Plugin Prius will outsell the Nissan product all day, and the Volt will be more expensive yet effectively the same in terms of gas mileage. How, exactly, have those companies won?

    3. What product on the existing market and/or on the horizon is a serious threat to the Prius? The $40k Volt? The $30k can’t-go-on-a-road-trip Leaf? The overpriced Honda hybrids? The hybrids from Ford and GM that depend on government sales to survive? Which one of these products is going to take people out of the Prius?

    I read a lot of complaints, but I don’t see enough acknowledgment. Toyota invented this segment, and 10 years later they still lead the segment with no significant challengers on the horizon. How are they falling behind?

    • @ Jason

      All very valid points to be sure. Toyota absolutely created the hybrid segment, which is why I am surprised that they have let competitors like Honda and Toyota get as close as they have. You’re right that the Prius still holds an impressive MPG lead over its competitors. The problem as I see it is that Toyota built this MPG gap at a time when other automakers weren’t really thinking about fuel efficiency. Now that Ford, Nissan, and the rest of the world’s automakers have made that their #1 priority, Toyota has got to be more aggressive if they want the Prius to stay on top. A wagon and plug-in though? That seems like something they should have done years ago, when there was little to know competition.

      Ford has improved its fleetwide fuel efficiency more then any other car company in the span of a couple of years, and other automakers are in hot pursuit. It is tough being on top, because everyone wants to knock you down, and right now the Prius looks more vulnerable then I’ve ever seen it.

      • Christopher – Ford’s fleetwide fuel efficiency has grown so dramatically because they’ve made a long overdue improvement to their truck engines. The 4.6 and the 5.4 were 12 year old engines…replacing them led to dramatic growth, but it’s not indicative of a huge advance in technology.

        One of the things that you seem to be ignoring is that the last 10% of improvement is the hardest to achieve. Toyota has refined their products tremendously, and they’ve reached a level of efficiency (both in terms of fuel economy and upfront costs) that’s hard for any automaker to match.

        Toyota could have brought out a wagon earlier, but I don’t know that we should fault them for that either. No one else seems to have a wagon hybrid on the horizon – the V60 hybrid you like isn’t going to be hitting US shores for at least 3 years (maybe longer, and maybe even never). First to market with the wagon shouldn’t be a criticism.

        I think that your greater point – that Toyota didn’t maximize their opportunity – is feasible. However, I don’t see any proof of that point in your article. Comparing the Prius to Euro-spec diesels, for example, is just silly considering that emissions rules are so different.

        • @ Jason

          I think what you are missing is that 50 mpg is not that amazing of an achievement for any four-cylinder car. As I and many others have pointed out, there were cars rated at 40 and 50 mpg back in 1980. So what you are saying, that the last 10% is difficult to achieve, would be more applicable if car makers were striving to go from 90 to 100 mpg. But we’ve had 50 mpg cars before, from diesel Jettas to Geo Metros, and so have the Europeans. All of that fell by the wayside in the 90’s and early 2000’s, except for Toyota and Honda. These were the only two companies that looked ahead and saw what was coming.

          And yet for all that foresight, here we are, 30 years later and barely a discernible difference in the MPG of most compact cars and sedans. And I think comparing U.S. and Euro models is fair game, because Europeans have been dealing with high gas prices for years. So these companies sold them fuel efficient vehicles. If there was that kind of demand in America, you’d bet we’d get those cars. And we’re getting there.

          As for Ford, their biggest improvement actually came from ditching the old 4.0 liter V6 which (under)powered more models then the 4.6 and 5.4. The new 3.7 V6 engine is worlds away a better engine, from power to fuel efficiency, though the 2011 V6 Mustang isn’t the first 30+ mpg Mustang we’ve had either. My 89 4-banger Mustang easily gets 35 mpg (at least until I drop a V8 in her…yes, I am a bad man.)

          By the way, I appreciate the debate. Just because I write something doesn’t mean anybody should accept it. I learned a long time ago to take everything I read on the Internet with a grain of salt, and that most certainly includes anything I write. So thanks for disagreeing.

          • A week later, I finally get back to checking on this. 🙂

            So anyways, I think that comparing an old 3-cylinder Geo Metro to a Prius and discounting the Prius because they both got the same type of mileage overlooks some MASSIVE differences in the two vehicles.

            A 93′ Geo Metro XFI was rated at 43mpg city and 52mpg hwy. According to Wikipedia it had 49 hp, and while I can’t verify that I know that it couldn’t get out of it’s own way. It had a 3 star driver’s side safety rating and a curb weight of 1700 lbs, so if you got in an accident with a bigger vehicle (and almost all vehicles are bigger) your chances of surviving without major injury are lower.

            The 93 Geo also didn’t have HALF the extras on a new Prius.

            Toyota makes a car that’s nicer, safer, has more convenience options, weighs nearly twice as much, and gets better mileage and yet you say that technology hasn’t advanced? Come on man.

            I’m writing this up on TundraHQ just for you. 🙂

          • @ Jason

            I’m saying that the technology specific to the Prius has not advanced much since it debuted a decade ago. Are there more advanced cars than the Geo Metro? Absolutely. However, I am the type of person who prefers simple vehicles over complex ones, mostly because I have to fix anything that goes wrong myself. I simply can not afford a mechanic, and if I could, I wouldn’t pay for one.

            So if you put a Toyota Prius and a Geo Metro in front of me, and told me I could have either car…I’d probably take the Geo. It isn’t safer, or faster, or better looking, but it is simpler with an equivalent MPG. It is a lot easier and cheaper to fix a manual crank window than a power window, and I’d bet its more environmentally friendly too 😉

    • While I agree 100% that the recalls haven’t hurt Toyota, your no. 3 point is simply answered with: the new Hyundai Elantra, Chevy Cruze, Honda Civic, and Ford Focus all get 40 mpg, and are bigger, faster, and cheaper than the “look how good I am” Prius.

      THAT, my friend, is a serious threat to Toyota’s bottom line.

      • NP

        @Joe Borras, either you read his point wrong or you just another Hate Toyota idiot reading and trusting only Hate Toyota opinions… NO Hybrid is Cheaper than Toyota, not even Honda Insight with lower ad price but add options to Match Prius and see bottom price. None. Other cheap non-hybrid gets ave 35-, compare to avg 45+ prius. Get some stats to prove your point…and read carefully.

    • nik

      Agree with your points…exact my thoughts while reading this misleading personal opinion from Christopher DeMorro…. to put his opinion in just two words: unintelligent comparison.

  • By all means, auto manufacturers should skip any efforts to start on alternatives out of our absurd myopic petrochemical addiction. I’ve owned an ’01 and an ’07. Both were fine cars. The ’01 had a far better cargo capacity for traveling being a sedan. The ’01 also had extraordinary drive-ability (original ECM) – simply elegant operation. The ’07 was fine, but lacked the eagerness.

    I want a Prius that is comfortable for 4 6’6″ adults. Growing kids is the only reason I had to swap out either Prius. The Prius v looks promising, but I’m guessing it still won’t cut it for us.

  • Prius’ is an ugly, slow and complex vehicle. The mileage has never been that impressive and when you look at total cost of ownership it does not save you any money.

    I have never been a fan of Hybrids because they are too complicated and I do not feel the added complexity is justified by the relatively modest fuel economy improvements.

    I think we are getting close to having all electric vehicles that can work as a primary vehicle but we need the infrastructure to support them.

    • My 2007 Prius is a good car and I’m happy we made the purchase, but several things are disconcerting as we are now over 60K miles. Both front headlights failed at a cost of $150 each plus labor to remove the front bumper. What an inefficient, expansive and stupid design. I can change the headlamps on my 2003 Yukon for about $20 myself in about 15 minutes. I can see that maintenance costs on these cars will erase any savings from fuel costs very quickly.

      The weeny little start up battery has been a source of constant trouble. It dies for seemingly no reason and because the rear hatch doesn’t operate without power, it requires folding down the back seats, opening the lid to the spare tire and flipping a lever to open the rear hatch…FROM THE INSIDE of the car. My wife would never be able to do anything about this other than call AAA.

      There is no emergency switch to take advantage of the 600 lb. mega battery to give the car its own jump, which is an incredibly bad design flaw. If they were smart about it, they would put jump terminals under the hood where they would be accessible.

      • ? Uh, my ’05 Prius has a jump terminal under the hood. I’ve used it several times. I only had to go through the process you describe to actually replace the battery when it died.

  • william edwards

    Toyota “let up” on the accelerator to maximize profits…now that competitors are closing in on Toyota’s technology from a DECADE ago I would expect them to move again to keep their advantage. I think they are still smarting from their losses…

  • Great comments, except for the following:

    Prius’ is an ugly, slow and complex vehicle.

    Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Your velvet Elvis paintings are ugly to some.

    The car isn’t slow. If you mean it has modest acceleration, that’s because those who buy it put no emphasis on that particular attribute. Modest acceleration is an engineering trade off for high mileage.

    Complexity only matters when it comes to maintenance and reliability. The amazingly high reliability ratings of the Prius contradict it’s complexity. I’ve come to realize that the only thing complex about the car is the software in its main computer, which needs no maintenance.

    The mileage has never been that impressive and when you look at total cost of ownership it does not save you any money.

    The mileage is very impressive. I own a 2006 Prius and a two-door 2008 Yaris. The Yaris is supposed to get 39 mpg highway. I have yet to get it past 32 mpg. The Prius consistently gets over 50 mpg highway. And if people buy cars only to save money, we would all be driving a two-door Yaris.

    I’m a mechanical engineer and I am very impressed by what Toyota has accomplished with an internal combustion engine. To get better mileage the only options left are less weight (greatly increasing cost) or further electrification (plug-in).

    This car will go down in history for having set the bar for competitors. Electric cars are going to become very popular in the next decade, particularly for two car families.

    I grew up fixing and driving Ford Pintos. The cars we drive today are amazing pieces of engineering:



    I have never been a fan of Hybrids because they are too complicated and I do not feel the added complexity is justified by the relatively modest fuel economy improvements.

    I think we are getting close to having all electric vehicles that can work as a primary vehicle but we need the infrastructure to support them.

    • My bad. The above post would make more sense had I put quotes around davva360’s comments:

      “…Prius’ is an ugly, slow and complex vehicle …”

      “…The mileage has never been that impressive and when you look at total cost of ownership it does not save you any money …”

      “…I have never been a fan of Hybrids because they are too complicated and I do not feel the added complexity is justified by the relatively modest fuel economy improvements.

      I think we are getting close to having all electric vehicles that can work as a primary vehicle but we need the infrastructure to support them …”

    • I’d love to get a comparison of the Yaris and Prius – since the Yaris is one of the cars I’m thinking of adding to my … is 2 cars a “fleet”?

      • I have four cars …sorry to say but I also have two teenage drivers. The 92 Tercel, with automatic tranny, power brakes and steering, gets better mileage than the 2008 Yaris.

        I’m guessing it is because the Yaris gas pedal is very sensitive. You can’t accelerate lightly in it. The thing gives you whiplash. I’m also guessing that Toyota did this to make if feel zippy. This tight gas pedal might not show up on the EPA mileage calculations, which measure exhaust parameters and back-calculate a mileage.

        Otherwise, great little economy car, rides like a wagon. You can downshift the automatic to save your brakes.

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  • Rob

    The upcoming Prius plug-in may be a more significant upgrade than you think. For only 2-3 hours of plug-in time to get 13 miles of EV time is better than most competitors, and 13 miles of EV will be plenty of EV for many commuters. It would probably raise my overall mpg average to 75, a 50% improvement.

  • “Toyota vehicles have had just as many problems as any other brand”

    Really? Toyotas have had as many problems as Kias? As Chevys? As Cadillacs? As Chryslers? Here is a pro-tip: when you make empirically false statements, you lose credibility in every other thing that you write. For example, I know from past research that Kias and Chryslers have terrible reliability records, so I know that the quote above is not true. On the other hand, I have no way of knowing whether other assertions you make in this article are accurate. But, knowing that you made the quoted statement, which is baldly inaccurate and easily checked, I actually don’t trust a single word written here and, not having the time to actually verify every statement, I’m going to make the rational decision of just discounting everything you’ve written as only potentially true.

    • @ James

      You knock me for providing no evidence and yet provide no evidence to support your own accusations.

      So here is some evidence to support my claim that Toyota’s reliability isn’t as bulletproof as you think. Over 3.5 million Toyota vehicles may have been affected by the epic “engine sludge” epidemic that caused motors to gum up and die with alarming frequency. Over a 800,000 Toyota pickup trucks have had to be recalled due to issues of FRAME RUST. Oh, and just last week Toyota recalled over 2 million vehicles for floormat issues. These are just from the past few years, and save for the floormats, they are not “minor” issues.

      Every automaker has recalls, many of them on a huge scale. The Ford Windstar has been out of production for years but it still has recall issues. But I just don’t believe the hype about Toyota’s reliability, and compared with how many recalls they’ve had in the last ten years, compared to the previous ten years, I’d say their quality is slipping at an alarming pace…even if it is just “unsecured floormats.” If you can’t get the floormats right, what else did you get wrong?

      • Floormat problems are due to the completely overblown “runaway acceleration” issue, itself caused by stupid drivers who stand on the accelerator thinking it is the brake.

        We keep raising the bar on what we expect. We used to hope that the car would rust out before it quit working. Today we are offended if it ever rusts out. That increase in quality is thanks to Japanese adoption of the methods of W. Edwards Deming, Juran, and others.

  • C

    I love my Prius. It’s a great car and I’m very satisified. I’m shocked that you say there is nothing else to recommend it. It’s a no compromise fuel efficient car. It has lots of technlogy and features you could never get on a cheap car like an accord. To me the power of the Prius is being able to get flagship car features on a small fuel efficient car for a low price.

    The Prius V though really sucks. Why did they made it without a third row seat? A regular Prius has plenty of carrying capacity. It just doesn’t have room for an extra kid or two when you’re taking your kids friends somewhere. It doesn’t make any sense. The Prius V officially sucks.

  • Ian

    Minor correction: the Lexus GS and LS are not based on any Toyota model. And the RX uses the Camry platform but there’s no direct Toyota equivalent.

    Beyond that, I agree that ToMoCo seems to have lost it’s way. As a Lexus owner, I’m mystified why a lot of new consumer tech (e.g. MP3 playback) appears first in Camry and the Scions and only 2 or 3 model years later in their purported flagships.

  • In the US market, it’s not true that “every Lexus is a tarted up Toyota.” The LS, GS and IS models have no Toyota equivalent.

  • The whole notion of “green” automobiles is pure marketing BS. Any car needs paint, mining operations for metals, refining of metals at a “factory”. Everyone remember what one of those is? They emit stuff in the air or water that can be nasty or not. Prius is no different in this than a Hummer. Ok lets talk fuel.
    Prius uses less than a Hummer. That is good when it costs $4/gallon and you can’t afford your monthly fuel bill. On the other hand the only reason we have $4/gallon is the Democratic party along with the environmental lobby has created a villain called “OIL” and “CARBON”. The want to keep those villains in their earthly cages by not drilling for Oil. So they create artificial shortages like we’ve seen for the last few decades.

    As the writer has shown there are growing numbers of oil based cars that are so close to the Prius in fuel economy and emissions that the difference is irrelevant. So lets not worry so much about the fuel. Lets worry about letting the market supply us with plentiful and cheap fuel while forcing oil burners to be as clean as possible.

    • @ Richard

      I am not defending oil. Not by a long shot. And that is one reason why I am not a huge fan of the Prius or other hybrids; even at 50 mpg, it still uses oil, which more often than not, comes from hostile foreign nations. Weening America off of oil is as much about national security as it is about cleaning up the environment. Make no mistake about that.

      • Its thinking like yours that have got us in the mess we have now. We are almost totally dependent upon nasty foreign thugs for our oil because we allowed fanatics to take control of our energy and automotive industries. They waged war on cars Americans want and on home based energy extraction or production. No oil drilling. No nuclear power generation. What is left? Get energy from abroad since our society must have the stuff.

        The solution to the problems your way of thinking are causing is to allow supply to freely match demand within American territory. My god man, the Chinese and Cubans are drilling just off our shores into oil basins we could be exploiting! Madness!

        We have almost limitless natural gaa. Oil reserves are increasing monthly. Lets get it while mandating engines are as clean as technology permits.

      • Wrong on facts. US gets most of its oil from the US, Canada and Mexico, none of which are particularly hostile. Pumping more US oil would increase supply, lower prices, and reduce the amount that our allies, who do buy oil from hostile nations, fund our enemies.

        We only need to pump our own oil until thermonuclear fusion is well developed. Then if you wish you can purchase synthetic fuel and return it to the earth.

        • Nice try but these facts from the US DOE clears the airs and sets the facts.
          Source imports for the US, 12/2010:

          Canada 2000 bbls/day
          Mexico 1200 bbls/day
          Saudi Arabia 1000 bbls/day
          Nigeria 1000 bbls/day
          Venezuela 800 bbls/day

          I didn’t complain about hostile regimes, I don’t want the US dependent upon thugs. Clearly 2800 bbls/day come from thug regimes.
          Another 1200 bbls/day come from a country racked by civil war with over 28,000 dead in a three year Narco war. That makes Mexico unstable by any standard and not a reliable source for US crude.

          If the fanatics ruling US energy policy were removed and sanity returned to our policy we could eliminate that 4000 bbls/day imports or most of it. True energy security. While producing the most efficient and non polluting cars in the world.

  • Agree 100%. I never thought Toyotas were as great they were made out to be, nor as bad as they were accused of being in the past couple of years. They are good, solid cars.

    I, however, don’t buy them, not because they are made by a Japanese company or that they are unreliable. I think they are boring and overpriced. Two cardinal sins, in my view, that can prove fatal to a car company. There no longer is a significant quality gap; just about all the manufacturers put out reliable cars and technologically advanced cars. I, personally, have returned to Ford (via Honda and Mitsubishi) because I find Ford cars reliable, comfortable, and fun (I have a Shelby Mustang and an Expedition). There are many other good cars out there. Even much maligned GM seems about to take back its crown as most sold car in the world, as they are outselling Toyota in China.

    Toyota has some great engineers; now they need some designers to recapture some of the excitement they have lost.

    • Great post. I’m sure Toyotas are good cars, but there for a while it was as though some people thought they were made by God Himself. I could never bring myself to own one, 1) because I’ve always been a bit of a contrarian …can’t stand following the “in” crowd, and 2) because they have the most boring looking cars on the market. Say what they want about American reliability (which has improved dramatically over the past 1.5 decades), but I refuse to own a car that bores me (let alone pay a premium for it and all parts and maintenance thereafter).

      Just looking at the “bread and butter cars” of each manufacturer: Chevy Malibu, Ford Fusion, Toyota Camry, Honda Accord, Nissan Altima, Hyundai Sonata. Malibu and Fusion are great looking cars, Altima is a decent looking car, but getting dated, and Accord, Camry and Sonata…I’m sorry, it’s as if they were they thinking, “Let’s make our car the most generic looking car out there…something that really says, ‘one standard issue car’ to everyone who sees them.”

      • BTW, I have nothing against the Pruis. To me, it’s the only hybrid that makes any market sense. The original Honda Insight was another one (filled a niche ultra-high-mpg market), but it got canceled.

        The Prius was so far ahead of the competition that I think it spoiled people into thinking Toyota could stay that far ahead, when it’s just not possible now that everyone is getting MPG-conscious.

  • I need a big SUV with room for 4 adults and 5 children, with comfort and some luggage space.

    By preference, something that works on cheap low octane, kerosene or diesel fuel. After you do that, I will worry about what kind of mileage it gets.

    Perhaps a better engine is sometimes to be preferred to several different engines. I think of a hybrids as a “coal fired car” with the added disadvantage of pollution from nickel mines used to produce materials for the batteries.

  • Still nothing to match it in the US mileage wise.

    It’s a fun car to drive. Gets 49 to 51 mpg at Interstate speeds and if you keep th A/C and lights off you can get well over 55 mpg at 40 to 50 mph. The A/C thing is tough here in Florida except from December through mid March. The car’s dangerous though because of the driver distraction watching the fuel consumption computer showing 62 to 75 mpg when running on straight and level roads after the engine is warmed up and batteries charged. You just don’t want to take your eyes off the display.

    If VW can detox its diesel that gives 70 mpg in Europe so it can be sold here, I’ll buy it. But until then I’ll suffer with the Prius.

    Love toppping off the tank at Costco with the pump displaying 9.6 gallons and loudly asking my wife to give me the miles driven. It’s ususally right around 500. Love to be next to a Suburban when I do it.

  • Well said! Toyota needs to take some risks just at the time when they feel they have to step back. the time is now for a plugin Prius with 50 mile ev range

    time is now for lithium pack in a hybrid CT200h

    Toyota needs a mainstream EV and soon.

  • OK, I’m boring. So what? For me the excitement comes after I turn off the key and get out. I’m not interested in the excitement of wondering what will break before I get to where I’m going, or whether I’ll have to finish the trip on foot.

    Also, while the Prius is only just getting a higher capacity model, Toyota has sold a hybrid Highlander SUV and a hybrid Camry for a few years now. I mean who really cares about the model name if the vehicle meets your people/cargo capacity and mpg needs?

    Yes, Toyota should be putting higher capacity batteries in their hybrids, which would involve moving away from Nickle metal hydride chemistry to Lithium ion. I’d even like to see them get away from that overly complex triple transmission of theirs in favor of their own version of the Volt system.

    However, I’m not going to pay for pizzaz and sexy if I’m going to worry whether I’ll get stranded after 5-10 years.

    • @ Ed

      You are not what I would call a “car guy” then. I know it sounds sick, but every time I turn on my Jeep I really do wonder “What will break next? Where will it break? Do I have the right tools?” That is a bit of an exaggeration, but not much. I enjoy fixing my cars as much as I enjoy driving them. Yes, it was incredibly frustrating breaking down in the toll lane in Massachusetts and pushing my Jeep across 7 lanes of toll traffic (and not a soul got out to help.)

      I like sexy, crazy cars, even if they are prone to breaking down. That’s why all my cars are 20+ years old. There’s nothing wrong with wanting boring reliability, it just isn’t for me.

      • Well, you’re right in that I’m not a “car guy.” I am a reasonably good mechanic and handyman. For my own daily driver (a Corolla) I have plenty of tools, and I’ve had to use them. So far always to get someone else who is stuck back on the road.

        Last year I caravanned to/from Bryce National Park driving my Previa along with my daughter’s family in their Sienna. I had plenty of tools with me, but other than changing a tire I didn’t have to use them. Trust me, the prospect of breaking down in Death Valley or elsewhere in the south western desert with my wife and her elderly sister on board would have been an unwelcome degree of excitement.

    • Of all Toyota’s cars, I find Prius to be the only non-boring one. It’s unmatched in the market, for now.

  • Tom

    The moment the Japanese government agreed to let the Marines stay on Okinawa the acceleration problem went away.

  • I bought a Prius in 04 and it has been the best car I ever owned, yes it is a transportation appliance and my wife’s Civic Coupe is much more fun to drive but you have to be honest and say that a car that get’s great mileage, hauls lots of stuff, and almost never needs any repairs is a great success. That said I reserved a Leaf and that will become my primary car when I get it, I’m keeping the Prius though…

  • Great article! I’ll just share that I love blowing by the boring Toyota Priuses on the road in my red 2011 Mustang 5.0. Irresponsible use of gas (I’m getting 19 avg mpg)? Sure. Fun as all get out? Oh Yeah!

  • The Prius gets better mileage than any other hybrid. More importantly, it can be purchased for $20,500. Most people who want to buy a car to save gas don’t want to spend $40,000 for the opportunity.

    Successful high mpg vehicles will have to have 200 mile range, adequate acceleration, and a purchase price in the low twenties. The Prius is in the sweet spot and the Prius V sets a new standard for efficiency.

    • @rwcole

      I think you are jumping the gun on the Prius V, though I have to agree that the Prius certainly hits a “sweet spot” of affordable and efficient. For now, at least.

  • Jem thomas

    In Europe Toyota has nowhere near the presence it has in the USA and the far east.

    The prius in particular is purchased by people for whom cars are mystery don’t like driving and have more money than sense.

    If you want a 60 mpg car would you rather have a BMW 116d or a prius both cost roughly the same.

    The prius only works in the USA precisely because of that fact, lack of an alternative. We all know what happens in a monopolistic situation products do not develop .

    Take my own car as an example of why the prius is a no show in Europe – Mitsubishi colt 1.5 tdi 3 cylinder 150 lbft of torque 6 sp sequential box I have never been below 53 mpg ave and my wife achieved 64mpg on a run once. Seats two adults and two teens in comfort, This car is built Europe and formed the basis of the original smart four4. Cost 16k USD with a reasonable spec.

    Why would I spend 30k USD on a prius,


  • TE

    I love Toyota. I own a Prius, but to tell you the truth I was really expecting more from the plug-in prius! And they definitely need to refresh the looks of more of their models…

  • You cannot say anything about the mileage of prius as Toyota is considering it to be best creations.both of them are getting popularity and attracting more people.you observed a limited number of people there but i think majority don’t think like that.

    • I would pay $30k for another 2010 Prius but don’t have to. I could get one for $21,000 but expect to drive mine another 300,000 miles like my other Toyotas. I have driven lots of old trucks and cool cars but got tired of breaking down on bridges and in the backcountry. It was kinda cool to look under the hood of a 1958 Chevy Apache and see only a few wires. However, those who like that old technology probably don’t really understand solid state electronics, regenerative brakes, unibody construction, and continuously variable transmissions. I take our Prius to wilderness areas where trucks and jeeps break down, run out of gas, or get stuck all the time. The car is undervalued and overstocked while people give away any wealth they get to the oil companies and repair shops for sentimental notions rather than real needs or comfort. The 50 mpg means Prius beats any other car in value for my urban and rural driving, and I still pass the other cars on the road so often it does get so boring that it needs a better radio.

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  • Nik

    Its not surprising that Christopher DeMorro did not compare PRICE while forcing his misleading comparison… Also, latest News confirms that NOTHING wa wrong with ANY toyota. It was all media and political motive to sell more American brand to SOME dumb americans.

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  • The Prius Plug-in is a Hybrid and the Volt is an Electric. You are comparing apples to oranges. Once the Volt runs out of ‘steam’ you need to recharge until you can turn the next wheel. Once the Prius Plug-in runs low of electricity the system keeps going in full hybrid mode. No need to be stranded. I think you missed the point of the Prius Plug-in all together. Nice try…

  • Mike

    The Volt is not Electric. It too is a plug-in hybrid. Once it runs out of juice the gasoline engine kicks in. And I believe it gets fairly good MPG ratings with that too. However I am not a Volt fan.

    2013 has made this article even more true. I read just a few minutes ago that the new Accord plug-in hybrid will get 46/47 mpg. And the Fusion hybrid is rated at 47/47 (they are having some issues in the real world numbers, but I was able to get this when I drove it). Both of these cars are bigger and much nicer than what the Prius offers. I too am very disappointed that Toyota has not kept up. I for sure thought they would stay ahead of the game seeing that they came out with such a revolutionary car so early. People have been converting Prius’ to plug-ins for years and they get better results than the one that Toyota released.