The Prius Has Gone Mainstream
There have been many indications building up over the last year or so, but it is now clear to me that the Prius has gone thoroughly mainstream.
- Toyota announced recently that they have now sold over 1,000,000 hybrid vehicles worldwide. This still represents a tiny fraction of the cars sold over the same time period -- probably less than 2% even in recent high-volume years -- but it is a significant milestone nonetheless.
- Toyota made the move last year to broaden the Prius technology into other models, and branded the system Hybrid Synergy Drive.
- The long-standing California incentive that allowed Prius drivers to access the H.O.V. lane even when driving alone has now expired. Existing stickers are still valid, but no new ones will be issued. (My colleague and fellow blogger unfortunately discovered this the hard way.) The only way to get access to this privilege now is to purchase a used low-emissions vehicle with a sticker.
- And supply has finally caught up with demand. For years (especially in my hometown of San Francisco) interested buyers were met with long waiting lists and the prospect of paying the dealer above sticker price. But earlier this year, Toyota began introducing incentives to move inventory, as all other manufacturers must do. And we even can now see Prius televsion commercials for the first time (below).
But I am now truly convinced that the Prius has crossed the chasm (or perhaps jumped the shark.) Twice last week on my long San Francisco-to-Menlo Park commute (in my 2000 Jetta averaging just 25 mpg; more on that later) I observed aggressive lane changing and passing on the right by Prius drivers. The hybrid electric demographic is no longer limited to globally conscious and community-oriented drivers. The American Prius driver is starting to look like the rest of America. This is a good thing for the planet and the inevitable result of success. But it certainly dilutes the brand!
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