Toyota Prepares for Prius Gold Rush

In its first month of Japanese sales, customers ordered more than 100,000 of the new third-generation Toyota Prius. This number is 10 times the projected 10,000 unit-per-month sales target the carmaker had set earlier this year. In addition, there were 80,000 pre-orders placed before the car hit dealer showrooms on May 18. That brings the tally to 180,000 Priuses sold.

While the company ramps up Japanese production and projects a seven-month wait for new orders, it is now anticipating a similar reaction to the US release of the model and is searching for local capacity to fill anticipated orders.

The hybrid wars in Japan have intensified as the Toyota Prius and the new Honda Insight fight it out for the top spot. Prius won the top spot in May, but all hybrid sales in Japan surged over the last 30 days to levels not seen since prior to the onset of the global economic downturn. The Insight was the best-selling hybrid in Japan in April.

“Demand has shifted from Insight to Prius,” Yoshiaki Kawano, an analyst at auto consulting company CSM Worldwide in Tokyo, told Reuters News Service. “Tax incentives are definitely boosting purchases,” he added, referring to new government purchase breaks, like the waiving of sales tax, introduced to stimulate economic growth.

Customers ordering a Prius in Japan must wait close to seven months for delivery. In order to meet high demand, Toyota moved workers from various factory locations to its Tsutsumi, Aichi facility, which builds the Prius. Additionally, work shifts have implemented overtime in order to produce 50,000 Priuses a month.

Toyota currently does not make the Prius in the US, but that could change, according to Bloomberg News. The California NUMMI plant—a joint venture with GM—was mentioned as one possible location, since it makes the similar Corolla and will halt production of the Pontiac Vibe in August. Another possibility is an early start-up of the Tupelo, Miss., plant, which was originally supposed to produce Highlander SUVs, then switched to the Prius as the market shifted in 2008, then mothballed in December 2008 when the bottom fell out on the auto market. Officially, Toyota is still saying that the Tupelo plant will build the Prius “when demand and this economy turns around.”

The base price of the Toyota Prius was reduced by 12 percent before sales began, in order to compete with Honda’s less expensive Insight. The lower sticker helped Prius post high sales figures in the Japan. Whether the Prius will see a similar level of success in the US remains to be seen.

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  • Lost Prius to wife

    With the safety features of the Advanced Technology Package, and having test driven the 3rd generation Prius, for me it is just a matter of whether to wait for the plugin version or buy one later on this year. And somehow I have to figure out how to get it away from my wife. As soon as she finds out that it will parallel park itself, it will be very diffcult to get the steering wheel out of her hands.

  • Anonymous

    She’s going to have the steering wheel in her hands while the car auto-parks?

  • Austintatious

    After a several day wait for the dealers in Texas to receive their 2010 models, the wife and I drove our Prius II home two days ago. Many likely buyers here have waited for weeks for their arrival and the cars started to show up around the state over the last few days.

    Assuming that the onboard mileage computer is legit, we averaged exactly 50 mpg for the 75 mile drive, a significant part of which was fairly hilly. I will soon be doing my own fuel efficiency checks, with each fillup.

    While I’ve striven to reign in my building anticipation and excitement about this car, I must say that my initial response is Wow! We’ll see what develops.

  • John Salazar

    This is great, Good for Honda and Toyota. I my self have a Honda Civic hyrid II. Im really considering tradeing it in for a Toyota Prius III but im such a huge Honda Fan I don’t know if i could betray them like that, lol.

    Ahhhh the agony.

    Honda- Great performance, great value, great car ahhh I love Honda.

    Toyota – bigger car, more space, and not to mention better fuel economy. “decisions decisions”.

  • Joe

    Take a look @ the 2010 Ford Fusion Hybrid a great car for me so far ! I also was going to buy the Toyota Prius III but have decided that this was a better fit !

  • Max Reid

    Great News.

    Looks like Japan alone will absorb the 400,000 units targeted.
    We still dont hear much news about Prius in US. Last month, its sales started only on May-18 and sold a few hundred units.

    Lets see its June sales and that will be the better indicator.

    Prius-III has 21 cubic feet trunk capacity which brings it pretty close to full size car like Crown Victoria. Many taxis in US can replace those models with Prius-III, and it costs the same as Crown Vic and can give more than triple the mileage.

  • Anonymous

    Why is there no vouchers for hybrids ?

  • Gerald Robinson

    OK, the new Prius III is a little bigger, a few more features, somewhat better mileage with a conservative styling update but must say that I am very disappointed. I came away from my test drive of the Prius III not feeling any level of excitement. There is really nothing about the third gen that generates the kind of buzz that gen II did. Can’t see the second gen drivers trading in for this conservatively updated model. Toyota needs to show more leadership and bring the consumer something really exciting both technologically and stylistically. I think Toyota’s leadership void is an opportunity for GM in the green car market.

  • Jeddy

    Got my Prius 2010! I’ve never owned a Prius before and initially set out to buy the hybrid Camry. My wife and I were turned off by the small trunk space.

    She had to call me tonight to bring it home. I just wanted to drive all night. It’s smooth, has great headlights that illuminate dark roads so well. EV mode works smoothly and silently, kicking out at about 40km’s. Eco mode is good too, grooming your driving with a nice heads up display. “B” mode aka jake-braking works like a dandy to charge up the battery. Going down a steep hill, it totally keeps the car speed under control without much need for braking. It’s quiet too.

    For fun, I tried some of the other features and sync’d my iPhone with the car. With the press of a button, I called my wife and the call was clear as day. I used the dial by number feature, orating the phone number to get started. This is a very easy feature to use.

    The car is sleek, streamlined and gorgeous. A++++ Now, if I can just stave off another late night test drive 😉

    Great car with a huge trunk 🙂

  • marco

    In europe the prius will be lauched later this year due to the need to supply American market.

    The presentation of the car is being a sucess in Sweden.

  • Need2Change

    There’s no need for the government to give incentives to buy the Prius or Insight. They will sell without incentives.

    It will be the plugins that will need the incentives.

  • Austintatious

    Actually the Gen II drivers will not expect or want radical change, for Toyota has already provided it. I predict that the tweaks, adjustments and improvements coming with the Gen III will prove to be quite satisfactory to Gen II drivers, with plenty enough “buzz”. Where radical change has been and still is desperately needed is at GM, as has been well demonstrated by the buying (non-buying) public.

    I must say that to suggest that there is a “leadership void” with Toyota in green car technology, and that Toyota is not bringing people “something really exciting both technologically and stylistically”, is simply ignoring the facts. Toyota is light years ahead of GM; even Ford has begun to leave GM behind.

    What some don’t seem able to understand is that GM has never been genuinely interested in or committed to leadership in the “green car market”. Had they been so, they wouldn’t have scrapped their relativley successful bid for an electric car; had they been so, they would have been producing a proven, high achieving hybrid like the Prius long before Toyota hit the mark.

    GM has never really “gotten it”; indeed, they’ve never really wanted to “get it” and, in truth, they still aren’t making the commitment. Unless the government continues to prop it up, GM will die from a fatal lack of imagination. In fact, it already has. It was a suicide.

  • Max Reid

    Yes Prius-III has cargo space of 21 cubic feet while Camry has 17 cubic feet and Camry-Hybrid has only 12 cubic feet.

    12 cubic feet is less than Corolla’s 13 cubic feet and people who come to know about this, simply will not buy Camry-Hybrid. Hatchbacks are superior in this aspect.

    Since Prius-II is a big hit, Toyota almost retained the same design.
    But Prius-III is much bigger and also has more power and mileage. No wonder its a big hit in Japan.

    If they could not produce in enough volume, they better retool their Truck Plants to make Prius.

    While Prius-II was sold in 40 countries, Prius-III will be sold in 80 countries.

    Prius-I sold 120,000 units
    Prius-II sold 1,200,000 units
    Prius-III … Lets see how much it sells.

  • Robay

    Prospective owners of the upcoming Prius should press their dealers HARD about what changes if any Toyota has made to the seating to reduce or eliminate the possibility of contracting SCIATICA. MOST bodywork therapists in Maine (and I assume elsewhere from the sheer prevelance of this issue) have clients that drive a Prius and have sciatica and- their other clients that do not drive Priuses do not have sciatica. It’s remarkable that Toyota has not corrected their seat designs through TWO generations of Prius. Buyer beware!

  • RKRB

    Robay: It would be good if you could furnish convincing hard data on this issue. Sounds like a generalization based on a few anecdotal reports to me. It may be true but — at best — the accusation seems more like a test case or a hypothesis, and does not seem justified by the data; I’d just like to see the backup. Ah, the price we pay for the lack of science, formal decision making, and math education in this country. Thanks.

  • Samie

    Remember the stories of the 3rd Generation Prius getting 75-100mpgs w/ a Li battery? While those stories were far fetched you could say that the new Prius has come out a bit on the conservative side. As more competition enters the hatchback/sedan hybrid market you will see Toyota make greater gains in MPG’s, power, and cost reductions. The Insight has caused the Prius pricing to be lower. Why Toyota chose to be conservative on this is that w/o much advancement it still is the best hybrid hatchback/sedan out there. Lets see if Ford could offer a Hybrid Focus that could be priced around 22k and get upper 40’s to low 50’s mpgs.

    Next year gas prices will climb back up as the economy starts getting better that is why Toyota should, before Spring start producing the Prius in the U.S. While waiting lists for the Pruis is good b/c it can create greater desire for the car due to scarcity it also pisses off people and the car company that can adjust to upturns and downturns in consumer demands in the hybrid market may in the long run be able to offer the best hybrid and EV vehicles out there.

  • Jeddy


    Give me a break, mon. I suffer from a herniated sacral(1) disk with the worst sciatica you can imagine and experienced no pain in the Prius.

    Que Pasa?????

  • Cpl Bloggins

    Prius GoldRush I dont see it happening in North America.
    (1)Gas prices are much lower than last year
    (2)Government rebates & incentives for hybrids are not as abundant(Japan GoldRush=Huge incentive’s)
    (3)Toyota dealers don’t push the sales of hybrids because they don’t make money from fixing & servicing good quality vehicles
    (4)Hybrid myths
    (5)Stupid Prius commercials-Fire! the marketing department!
    (6)See number 3 Interest Rate on lease & financing are higher than other Toyota vehicles in general. Smaller profit margins for hybrids than a gas suckers for dealers
    (7)Prius Gen2 owners-how many will switch over for +7% fuel mileage non plugin

  • Robert455

    It would be great if all taxis with Priuses or other parallel hybrids but the problem is except for NYC most taxis are worn out former police cars with 100,000-300,000 miles on them that are bought for a couple grand, not 20 or 30k. There should be some type of government incentive or encouragement to make the switch as most taxi companies can’t justify it economically.

  • DC

    Rob, thats really funny you mention that. If you look around in my city, pretty much all you SEE are PRIUS taxis. I went the airport in one and the driver told me it cut their fleet fuel bill approximately in half. He said the taxi company was very satisfied with them and so was he driveing one. His prius had allready racked up over 500k kilometers. But here is funny thing, no government program or incentive was offered to any of these companies, they simply did it because it made economic sense to. I fail to see why anyone would want to essentially subsidize the NYC taxi industry, or in any other city for that matter, and reward them for being in essence cheap SOB’s when it comes to there ahh…fleet purchases. Of course, if any city was serious about getting old gas-guzzling taxis off there city streets, there is a much easier solution. Simply refuse to grant them licences unless a substantial portion of there fleets are high-efficency (whatevers). That is much preferable to buying taxi fleets new cars on the tax-payers dime dont you think? Besides, any company that pleads that level of poverty that there buying cars for a ‘few grand’ imo, shouldnt be allowed to operate in the first place.

  • devilduck

    Yes!!! The GenIII is finally available but I don’t want to wait 7 months for one when I could get the Honda Insight but I went and looked anyway, the only Prius GenIII they had available was a top of the line model with way too many uneeded things for the average driver. I don’t need lane assist, radar cruise control or the whole “auto park” if you can’t do those things then chances are you shouldn’t be driving. Now I know that these things attract the more luxury owners but for the average Joe I find I’m better off paying less for the Insight that has just what I need and won’t break the bank plus, I won’t have to wait to get one.

  • Rebecca Stewart

    I have terrible leg pain and have not been able to figure out what is going on. Now I think it is my car.

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