Sunday, June 24, 2007

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.
  • 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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At 6/25/2007 1:31 PM, Blogger Matt said...

A recent study concludes that hybrids have saved, in toto, a mere 5.6 million gallons of gasoline. Compared with daily U.S. imports of 8.5 millions gallons, a very much greater replacement of the existing fleet of vehicles is needed if energy independence/GHG impacts are to be observed.
Thankfully, with the accelerating increase in hybrid sales that is occurring, there is reason to believe significant avoidance will occur within the next few years.
Your 24 mpg Jetta will be replaced with a 50-60 mpg vehicle; do that 1 million more times in the U.S. and (h/t to Sen. Everett Dirksen) you start to talk about real money.

At 6/25/2007 1:46 PM, Blogger Justin Label said...

Hi Matt,

Thanks for the comment. Can you cite the study you refer to? Toyota estimates over 285 million gallons saved by Toyota Hybrids. (Go to the Hybrid Synergy Drive site listed below and click through to "explore and join the community". While the Flash is loading, you get a gallons saved counter.)

I know these are all estimates, but we're off by almost two orders of magnitude, so let's try to narrow it down!


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