Last week, Fox News’ Neil Cavuto spoke with Toyota Motor Sales President and CEO Jim Lentz about the market for hybrids, gasoline prices, and buyer preferences.
The interview followed Toyota setting yet another Prius sales record with nearly 29,000 total Prius variants sold, the launch of the plug-in Prius, and continued solid sales for the improved Camry hybrid, among other vehicles.
An outspoken skeptic of the Chevrolet Volt, Fox’s “Your World” Host Cavuto probed with a similar edge to his questioning, asking whether the rise of hybrids “is all this just a mountain of dust?”
Lentz fielded the questions with facts and observations that much does hinge around gas prices.
“Hybrids were almost 19 percent of our sales,” he said. “But if you go back a year ago, hybrids in our case were still almost 15 percent of our sales.”
He noted also that it’s not just a higher dollar price for gasoline that triggers a rush the hybrid dealer’s showroom floor, it’s also the rate of increase – a sudden spike tends to make people react more.
Cavuto egded into questions also about cost-benefit analyses, and Lentz, while acknowledging some buyers do closely analyze, said many do not, and merely make decisions based on monthly payments or bottom line as to whether a purchase makes sense for them.
The interview could be seen to illustrate some of the subjective and objective aspects of the sales process. It’s long been said buyers ultimately make decisions based on “feelings.”
As it is, while Cavuto and Lentz seemed separated in their perspective, both could agree that fuel prices are a key trigger to feelings that spur buyers.
Lentz had also noted that some hybrid buyers do so for principled reasons like a desire to reduce dependence on oil, to save the environment, and other complementary ideals.
To this, Cavuto asked are hybrids merely the “toys of the well-to-do?”
“Not necessarily,” Lentz said. “I think – I cannot tell you about Volt’s situation, because I don’t know their particular demographics, but in the case of Prius, we have sold over a million Priuses here in the U.S. They are not all just to people with wealth. There are a lot of middle-income people buying the car. And quite frankly they are coming back into the market now.”
The interview politely ends with Cavuto saying it’s always good to have Lentz on the show.