Do Falling Sales Spell Doom For The Toyota Prius?

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Originally posted on CleanTechnica

While Toyota, like most of the auto industry has enjoyed booming sales in 2014, one car in particular has not shared in the success. I’m talking about the Toyota Prius, which saw its annual sales decline nearly 12% in 2014 compared to the year before. But is this the beginning of the end for the Prius, as a Money piece put it? In a sense, yes, and no.

The Money article rightly points out that falling gas prices share only part of the blame, and haven’t effected competitors in the same way. While Prius sales have fallen in 2014, plug-in cars like the Nissan LEAF and Tesla Model S had record years. Part of the problem is that the LEAF and Tesla have taken up the mantle of environmental awareness that the Prius once held, and it has to be said they’ve done in a considerably more exciting way.

There are also a lot more competitive vehicles in the conventional sense, with many non-hybrids capable of close to 40 MPG and offering considerably more horsepower to play with. The Prius is no longer the hip, cool car it once was, and it is no longer the only “green” car option out there. Need further proof? The Prius is the most traded-in car for a Tesla Model S, and in trend-setting California, the Honda Accord has replaced the Toyota hybrid as the Golden State’s best-selling car. All in all, things look bleak for the Prius…if you only look at one side of the equation.

Far be it from me to be the one to champion the cause of the Prius, but when you look at the whole picture, you get a decidedly different view of things. For one, the current-gen Prius is on the cusp of replacement, and the next-gen hybrid could offer up to 60 MPG, all-wheel drive, lithium-ion batteries, and a decidedly more edgy and interesting look than the Prii that came before it. The Prius Plug-In is also set to get a more distinct look and features like wireless charging that could set it apart from competitors.

So in the sense that the boring, stodgy, and slow Prius of the past might go by the wayside? Yes, but the Prius that replaces it sounds like it could be a lot more of what people want, in a package that doesn’t turn people off.

And just because gas prices are down today doesn’t mean they won’t shoot back up overnight. Saudi Arabia may control the flow of their oil taps, but they don’t control the world, and considering it’s still in the center of an increasingly-unstable region of the world, I’m not one to be so short-sighted as to believe gas prices can’t go back up. Obama also seems to have found his balls as of late, advocating paid sick leave, free community college, and other liberal ideals. Maybe we will finally get a much-needed increase on gas taxes as well?

Prius sales may be down, but so were Mustang sales a year before the new model came out. Granted, low gas prices and increased competition doesn’t necessarily bode well for Prius sales, but with over 200,000 units sold in 2014, it still remains far-and-away the best-selling green car in America…and it won’t be this easy to knock if down.

 

Christopher DeMorro

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.