We see hybrid vehicles every day here in the Hybrid Shop and even though the hybrid market is quite diverse, one vehicle continues to stand out among the rest – the Toyota Prius. The Prius is celebrating its 17th birthday, and as of this year it continues to hold the top spot for U.S hybrid and electric vehicle (EV) sales. The next closest competitor was a distant 70,000 cars behind. Hybrid vehicles are no longer new to the industry, almost all of the major automakers now have some sort of hybrid or EV in production, so why does the Prius continue to reign supreme?
Part of the reason for its continued popularity is name recognition. The Prius was the first mass produced hybrid vehicle in Japan as well as here in the United States and its name is synonymous with technology, innovation, fuel efficiency and eco-friendly living. When Toyota was choosing a name for its groundbreaking vehicle, they chose Prius because its name means “before” in Latin. They felt as if it was just the beginning of the hybrid revolution and they were exactly right.
It took a few years for the hybrid vehicle to move from just a niche green car to mainstream America, but once it did the market exploded. When the Prius was first introduced here in the US, there were performance issues that left many consumers less than impressed. For one thing, it took a whopping 13 seconds to go from 0 to 60 mph and when it transitioned over from electric power to gas, it was nowhere near smooth. That being said however, it had a small market that was loyal to the concept, and sales the first year exceeded Toyota’s expectations.
With its redesign in 2003, the Prius boasted more power, better gas mileage and fewer emissions than its predecessor. By 2004, sales had doubled and they doubled again in 2005 which in turn created a waiting list several months long to purchase a new Prius. When the price of fuel begin to rise dramatically in the mid 2000’s there was an even greater demand for this fuel efficient dynamo. By 2008, the Prius hit one million in cumulative sales and only a short two years later, exceeded 2 million!
Today there are four Prius models on the market, the original Prius hatchback, the Prius Plugin Hybrid, the Prius V which has 50% more interior room than the original and the Prius C which is the smallest in the family, but boasts the best fuel efficiency of any non-plugin vehicle on the market today. Toyota’s anticipation of the importance of green technology, coupled with better fuel economy has made them one of the top automakers in the world and we applaud their foresight to create one the greatest hybrids ever produced.