Last week, we posted a full report on possible delays to hybrid car production as a result of the March 11 earthquake and tsunami in Japan. Now there is word of the first actual delay: Toyota says the new Prius V—the larger version of the most popular hybrid hatchback—will be delayed from its planned April rollout in Japan.
Does that mean the Prius V will not go on sale in the United States in late summer 2011 as planned? Not necessarily. “This hasn’t been determined,” said Toyota spokesman Mike Michels.
The Prius V has 50 percent more cargo space than the current Prius, while delivering 42 miles per gallon in city driving and 38 mpg on the highway. Pricing has not been announced.
As a new model—one that answers the needs of hybrid shoppers who have been seeking more passenger and cargo room—the Prius V was already likely to be in high demand and short supply in 2011. The current jump in gas prices—hitting a national average of $3.56 and $3.96 in California this week—has intensified demand for hybrids, while the effects of the earthquake have at least temporarily crimped production.
Those impacts are only now hitting U.S. hybrid dealers. Last week, Mike Sullivan of the L.A. Car Guy—reported to be the nation’s number one seller of hybrid cars—told HybridCars.com, “Hybrid sales are very good, but there’s no panic purchasing.” He said that his dealerships are running a 45-day inventory. “That will be fine, and then in around 45 days, the inventory will take a hit.”
This could mean standard prices and deals in March and April, followed by temporary waiting lists and dealer mark-ups in May. And then by summer, inventories could return to normal, just as the Prius V enters the market.
“We will be fine long term,” Sullivan said. “Our concern now is Japanese families trying to regain any kind of normal life.” The L.A. Car Guy dealership group established a matching fund with its 700 employees to raise at least $50,000 in relief funds.