Prius Continues Its March of World Domination

Toyota has always been a patient company that plans for the long term. After 10 years and countless billions of dollars, its efforts to dominate the market for hybrid cars continue to pay off.

The company recently announced it would double the European sales of its iconic Prius within two years, in response to efforts by the European Union to regulate vehicle emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2). Tadashi Arashima, CEO of Toyota Europe, said on Thursday that the company plans to sell 90,000 Priuses in 2010, against this year’s goal of 43,000.

More important, the company also said it will eventually manufacture the battery packs for the Prius in the United States. Earlier this year, when US gasoline prices soared, Toyota quickly reshuffled its manufacturing plans and said it would build the next generation Prius at a brand-new plant in Blue Springs, Mississippi starting late in 2010. It had previously planned to make Highlander sport-utility vehicles there.

The company began building Camry Hybrids at its Georgetown, Kentucky, plant in October 2006, and it plans to make up to 50,000 a year there. But all its other hybrids are imported from Japan, including the 183,800 Priuses it sold in North America last year. And it still imports crucial hybrid components from Japan—including the nickel metal hydride battery packs for those Camrys.

Vice Chairman Kazuo Okamoto told industry analysts on Friday that the company would make advanced batteries in North America, though the timing would depend on oil-price fluctuations. He called it “very difficult” to make parts of the battery outside Japan, but acknowledged it would happen. He said nothing on whether the company would base North American batteries on its current nickel metal hydride technology—used in all Toyota hybrids—or more advanced lithium-ion cells, such as those in the Chevrolet Volt scheduled for late 2010. Toyota usually pioneers new technologies in its home plants, however, before extending them into its global plants—so less-advanced technology would seem to be a safe bet.

The bulk of the world’s advanced batteries are presently built in Asia. Industry strategists have increasingly questioned whether North American industry can remain competitive if it has no onshore manufacturing capability for advanced batteries. Those battery packs are likely to store energy for several different vehicle types by the 2020s.

Meanwhile, underlining just how scarce Priuses have become at Toyota dealers, a nonprofit is giving away a Prius in a fundraising raffle—titling its press release, “Who Says a Toyota Prius is Hard to Find?” The California State Parks Foundation offered the 2009 Prius as the prize in a drawing at its 2008 Golden Poppy Award gala on Friday, September 26. Tickets are $100, and 700 will be sold. Readers can, of course, figure the odds themselves…

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  • Bryce

    half the hybrids sold in north america are priuses. they definetly dominate the market. It will prbably stay that way for a long time. However, as there are more offerings, they will steadily lose ground. This time last year, for example, 70% of hybrids sold in north america were Priuses. That is a pretty big drop. I am curious how long they will remain the king in front of competition like the new Honda insight that is cheaper and is supposedly supposed to get better mileage. And then when the Volt comes out. Should be interesting to see the “hybrid wars.” lol

  • Hal Howell

    I agree that the competition is going to heat up in about 2-3 years, but after seeing the Chevy Volt, I must say I am very disappointed in its styling. It looks more like a Ford Taurus or worse vice something one would expect in a next generation hybrid. The Honda Insight looks very much like my Prius but with a better looking front end and its less expensive. I want Chevy to succeed but they need to go back to the styling board and redesign their effort. While the concept car looked great and exciting, I understand it may not have been the most aerodynamic in drag coefficient but it had style that said, “The future has arrived.” The current design says, more of the same styling from the past. If this is what its going to look like then I’ll be more than happy to keep my Prius.

  • RKRB

    We shopped for a Prius three years ago and were outraged when the dealer demanded several thousand dollars in markups, and then tried to sell us a “heavily discounted” used Prius at more than the original base price (BTW, marking the vehicle up rather than raising the price has several adverse consequences including insurance reimbursements and financing). After our test drive, we also decided fuel mileage was the only appealing part of the car, and took our hybrid business elsewhere (Honda and Ford had wait lists, but not Toyota’s robber-baron pricing). We plan another hybrid for a second car, but it probably will not be a Toyota.

    Toyota can get by with scammy tactics for a while, but they risk having less trust from buyers. GM used similar tactics a few years ago, and look what happened to them — the good times may not last forever for Toyota, either.

  • Bubba Nicholson

    The “new” Volt is absurdly unaerodynamic with open wheel wells and wide square rear, but it’s more efficient than the idiotic steroidal muscle car of the first concept. That was a throw-away because it was all just for publicity anyway. Then GM tanked. So now GM’s made yet another car by committee and doomed this one to abysmal failure on a wary market. One wonders if there is even one brain among them. Could there be one? One maverick to finally bring the full benefit of aerodynamic automotive design to the Volt? Bucky’s gone. Dymaxion’s gone, too, but not forgotten, surely?

  • steved28

    I don’t think anyone wants to dominate a market (yet) that does not make money. When Chrysler came out with the minivan, everyone scurried to catch up, quickly. Not just for market share, but for money making market share.

    For instance, Ford’s hybrid design is very similar to Toyota, so similar that they had to work out potential law suits. Although the two companies actually reached similar designs through separate efforts. But Ford did not race to become the leader in the market due to the losses (or lack of profits) and to some degree supply.

    Don’t get me wrong, I love the synergy drive engineering. A marvel of simplicity and efficiency. This was not so much a race of getting a hybrid to market, as getting a profitable hybrid to market. Once other companies reach that goal, I expect the flood gates to open.

    Perhaps the Volt is the next generation of hybrids, but we haven’t even seen the current generation get it’s act together yet. Until the current design of hybrids can obtain 20-30% market share, the volt will not have a much needed stepping stone for future buyers.
    Toyota may be doing the rest of the industry a great service.

  • Adam Colando

    I am sorry to hear about your negative experience with one or two dealerships. I live in Florida and some of the dealerships try the same game, but I went to David Maus Toyota in Sanford, Florida and had the opposite experience that you had. Also it might be healthier to live in the present not the past. Bad experiences of the past are like chains holding us back. Let go, it is much more healthier. I am trying to help…

  • KAA

    The “wide square rear” is one of the most aerodynamic rear end for cars. It is called the Kammback, it was developed in the 1930s in Germany, it is credited to aerodynamicist Wunibald Kamm. That is why you find the Kammback on the Toyota Prius (Currently the most aerodynamic car, 0.26), original Honda Insight(The most aerodynamic car ever produced, 0.25), the new Honda Insight, and the Chevy colt. Many sports cars and race cars used it like the Ford GT-40.

  • Dom

    First, any Prius owner calling the Volt ugly or uninspiring is silly.

    Second, their plan to double Prius sales in Europe. Now somebody tell me why would I want a Prius if I lived in Europe, when there are plenty of clean, powerful, and MORE efficient diesel cars available to me?? Not to mention more attractive styling…

  • Paul Beerkens

    What about doubling the sales in the US? We are queuing up at the dealers doors to buy them but they do not have any.

  • normothebig

    “Now somebody tell me why would I want a Prius if I lived in Europe, when there are plenty of clean, powerful, and MORE efficient diesel cars available to me?? Not to mention more attractive styling…”

    Dom it’s because when you live in a country where taxes have doubled in the past 10 years and the holes in the road are getting bigger, you get to thinking about a car with the lowest taxes. That’s the Prius then. I won’t bore you with the details but my M5, M535d and 318 BMWs cost more in tax then anything else. Fuel, even at £1.30p per litre is an irrelevance.

    But I do have a secret weapon to deal with those times when handling and power are required: a Ducati 1098s. Gotta watch for those potholes though!!

  • Bryce

    Diesel is cheaper in Europe than gasoline is, so it really is silly to get a Prius. they would be be much better off with a Ford Fiesta, Chevy Aveo, or Toyota yaris. I believe all of those come with diesels in Europe.

    O, and that blunt back end is actually more aerodynamic you silly goose. lol, google it. : )

  • Need2Change

    This may be just me.

    When Prius first came out, I thought it looks odd.

    However, I liked the 2003 and later models. They were cute, and made a statement.

    But now, they’re everywhere, and their appearance is wearing on me.

    I’m one who prefers a unique car (which Prius definately was for ten years) rather than own what is almost on every block (which Prius has become).

    It’s become the “Beetle” of the 21st Century.

  • Samie

    I’m hearing different stories about the 09 Prius, that it will be the next generation Prius but wait some are saying that it will merely be a 2008 model. We know that the Prius starts at about 22k but likely you will pay 23-24k for the vehicle. If the new Insight is 19-20K you may see a shift towards that vehicle if say it is 2-5K less b/c the return on the investment maybe quicker, if you add the initial purchase price. Not sure how Toyota will respond to this. Do they make Prius a model line or maybe try to stick a hybrid in something like a Yaris. Little skeptical about the article b/c they simply look at the lack of production instead of the changes occurring in the hybrid market. Which leads me to wonder how Toyota will respond to the changes, to say that the next generation of Prius is somehow superior to the new options coming out is exaggerated. Also to somehow say that the Prius looks more appealing then the Volt design is silly. The Prius exterior design is unique but like it or not it does not appeal to large majority of Americans.

  • Anonymous

    The most aerodynamic car ever produced was the EV1 @ .195

    The Insite was the most aerodynamic car “Mass Produced”

  • Dom

    “It’s become the “Beetle” of the 21st Century.”
    Um… no. More like the Prius is becoming the Camry of the 21st Century. I don’t think it has the emotional appeal that the old Beetle did/does.

  • Boom Boom

    All the focus on the prius misses the point for Toyota. The main reason the market share for the prius has dropped from 75% to 50% is that they’re selling other Toyotas with hybrid drive (not losing anything to the competition). They went from having the best selling hybrid, to having the two best selling hybrids. Last time I checked, Toyota gets money for every car they sell, not just the Prius. It is their “flagship” hybrid, but Toyota is leading the effort to hybridize every car they make, which is the direction to go.

    Honda may be able to pull back some market share if the new Insight delivers on the promise of better and cheaper. GM is not really a player at this point since the only hybrids they have on the road are basically just show pieces. They’re not making many and selling fewer. We’ll see what is looks like in two years when Honda has regrouped, Toyota has a new Prius and GM has had a chance to put a Volt on the roads.

  • Bryce

    So if Toyota had 70% market share with one vehicle and now does exactly the same thing with 2 vehicles, how in the world does that justify the devlopment costs. The whole idea of introducing new models is to compete with other companies…..not your own….lol.

    GM’s market share has more than tripled this year. Toyota’s has gone down. In a competitive market, this makes sense. As Honda and Ford throw their weight into the market, it will all start to balance out. Anyone who thinks that any one producer will dominate the market forever is very, very silly. (especially this early on in the game, so much can change)

  • Samie

    Besides the cool Ford Hybrid Escape I haven’t heard much on Fords other hybrid vehicles. For some reason there is hype on Fords newly developed hybrid system but I don’t see it anywhere. All the talk about Hybrid F150’s and diesel cars coming to the U.S I don’t get. Maybe someone could educate me on what Ford is up to, that is what consumers will actually see in the next few years.

  • steved28

    Bryce (sigh….) nobody, but nobody, has competed more with their own brand in the past 40 years than GM. Chevy, Olds, Buick, Pontiac, Cadillac,GMC, all had the SAME EXACT CARS rebadged at one time or another.

    Toyota’s synergy drive system is already developed, of course it would be cost effective to place it in different size models. I.e. “I don’t want a car the size of a Prius, I want one the size of a Camry, but I want a hybrid”. Well, step over here….

  • Bryce

    So then Toyota is making the same mistake that GM made 40 years ago. You would think that they would learn right? Either their Prius lost market share to competitors while the Camry recovered that which was lost, or, the Camry stole that market share from the Prius itself. Either way, it isn’t good for Toyota.


    I believe Ford is coming out with the Ford Fusion Hybrid within the year. It is supposedly rated at 35/40 mpg. That sounds pretty nice to me. : )

  • Dom

    I’ve also heard the Ford Fusion Hybrid is due within the year. I believe the new F150 has been delay somewhat, which means the diesel model as well.
    As for diesel cars, VW’s new 50-state Jetta TDI is out now, though there are waiting lists for those. The best news is the wagon is back – finally a wagon that gets >40mpg on on the scene again in all 50 states!!

  • Samie

    Thanks Dom and Bryce, Sometimes you get lost in what GM and Toyota are doing and don’t really know what some of the others guys are up to.

    Ive been somewhat skeptical about some of the diesel options in the luxury cars and those that get average MPG, but I’m glad to see the new Jetta, As for the Ford F150 I’m sad to hear that the diesel option is delayed. In my fantasy world I would love to see all light trucks have the option of diesel and all V8 trucks be replaced with diesel engines.

  • steved28

    Bryce, Toyota is not competing against itself, the Camry and Prius are two different cars. One is not losing market share to another, the Prius is just being produced in limited quantities now. When I was shopping for a hybrid I never considered the Prius, but I did consider the Camry.

    You mention the fusion hybrid, yet by your logic Ford would be competing against itself in the hybrid market if they introduced this car. Since they already have a hybrid.

  • Bryce

    I was wrong, I was checking back on the sales list and Toyota’s market share last year wasn’t 70% but about 80% total, most of that from Prius. Prius is now at about 50% whereas Cam hybrid is about 10%-15% I believe.

    Anyways, my argument was not that Toyota is competing with themselves, but that you asserted that GM, Ford, Honda, and Nissan really had no market share while Honda’s market share has nearly doubled and GM’s has gone up six fold from this time last year. So either Toyota is doing it to itself, or indeed, as the numbers show, its competitors are gaining market share and fast. That is what I was trying to say…..which you clearly missed.

  • JoeA

    Har Har. The Honda insight will be 19K-20K, but I’ll bet you’ll never find one for that. Kind of like trying to find a Honda FIT at MSRP. Yeah, right – think again. The only ones you’ll be able to get are the ones that are all pimped out with options and marked up above MSRP. And you’ll wait 6 months for the privelege.

    The Chevy Volt is all marketting hype and vaporware. They’ll never get it out when they say they will. It’s an all new technology for a company that’s got no maturity, engineering or mass manufacturing experience with that type of car. They will have many engineering problems, delays and oh yeah, it’ll be priced out of range of the average Joe. Much as I’d like to see them succeed, I don’t think they will in the near term. They should be ready somewhere about the time my new Prius is ready to be replaced, but I won’t bet on it.

  • Bryce

    I am happy to see that we found the most positive fellow here in you Mr. JoeA.

  • Dave-C

    Diesel? Umm.. Clean diesel is not clean. It is only cleaner than diesel used to be… which is really dirty. Fuel economy is only part of the reason for switching to new technology.

  • Bryce

    well, it is part that appeals to people’s pocket books, which is what most people base their decisions upon.

  • Mitchell Piper

    Wow. I love the way you have a complaint with a local dealer and label it, “Toyota”. Toyota–meaning the car manufacturer, has nothing at all to do with the price upcharge asked for by your local dealer. In fact, Toyota is not legally allowed to tell a dealer how much they can or can’t charge for its product. That would be price fixing. Your local dealer is probably responding to market conditions in your area. It is likely that other Toyota dealers in your surrounding area also have asked for more than the Manufacturer’s Suggested Retail Price, because the supply and demand situation with this car allows them to get what they are asking right now. (Toyota is allowed to “suggest” a fair market price–which is the number on the window sticker.) By shopping around, you should be able to find Toyota dealers who will charge significantly less upcharges or none at all. Just don’t blame Toyota. Blame it on “Market”. BTW: How is it any different that the dealer asks more for a hard to get product in high demand than it is for a consumer to walk onto a lot and demand steep discounts for a product that isn’t selling?

  • kurtdaniel

    yeah,,the best of luck to my fave car model!!!

  • thomatt12

    The Japanese automaker, Toyota, is on top once again. Good job to them!