Toyota’s foresight pays off, Part 1: Prius sales top one million

The Toyota Prius is “the world’s first mass-produced petrol-electric hybrid car to hit 1 million in sales.” More than half of those were sold in North America. Toyota’s goal is to sell more than one million per year.

I own one and must say it is a terrific car. I get about 45 miles per gallon combined city and highway — double the mpg of my old Saturn, which was not as big.

Advertisement

I think the comments from the Wired blog bear repeating, considering how GM (and others) mocked Toyota for pushing what they claimed was a money-losing vehicle:

With demand rising and supplies falling, Toyota has — surprise! — cut incentives and raised prices. The Prius goes for an average of $25,274, up $869 from a year ago, according to JD Power.

It’s hard to believe it now, but the Prius was a hell of gamble when Toyota unveiled in in 1997, when gas was cheap, SUVs ruled the earth and global warming was only beginning to penetrate mainstream consciousness. Today the Prius is the gold standard for eco-friendly vehicles and Toyota has expanded its hybrid line to include the Camry and Highlander.

But the Prius is the cash cow, and Toyota will unveil the next-generation model at the Detroit auto show in January. Auto Observer says it will be bigger, cleaner and more fuel efficient. Toyota also is developing a plug-in version that could be in showrooms by 2010.

Those who follow the energy/climate issue and Toyota, however, are not surprised. Alone among major car companies, Toyota has taken seriously both peak oil and global warming. So Toyota has understood for a long time something that Detroit and conservative politicians don’t — the car of the future has high fuel efficiency and the ability to use an inexpensive low-carbon fuel. That makes the hybrid vehicle, with its ability to transition to the plug in, the most important vehicle platform of the century (see “Plug-in hybrids and electric cars — a core climate solution, nationally and globally”).

Advertisement

The other lesson for car companies is that you need to use most of the hybrid technology to save gasoline, not increased power. Honda failed to understand that with their Accord hybrid (see here and here). With 255 horsepower and, ultimately, a city mileage of 25 mpg (!), the car sold 25,000 units since 2004, and a mere 6,100 of the 2007 mode. Honda will not be hybridizing the next generation in 2008.

Kudos to Toyota.