In June, sales of the Toyota Prius fell by nearly two-thirds compared to last year’s numbers, at a time when Toyota should have been reaping the rewards of having the world’s most popular and iconic fuel-sipper. With gas prices high and the average price of used a Prius up more than 25 percent, the demand has clearly been there. There just aren’t enough cars to go around.
The aftermath of this year’s Japanese earthquake has kept supplies of the Prius and other hybrids limited—much as insufficient production capacity had kept them limited during the height of the last gas spike in 2008.
Now Toyota says that its recovery is moving along ahead of schedule, and that the Prius will be back to full production this September. Dealerships in the United States should begin to feel the influx of new vehicles by year’s end, meaning that consumers can expect to notice an increase in the number or Prii on lots—and likely a decrease in dealer markups—by early 2012.
On June 22, the Toyota issued a press release promising to deliver 75,000 new Prii to the U.S. by year’s end, before quickly retracting it. The carmaker now says it expects to sell 36,000 of the vehicles in the U.S. by the end of the summer. American sales for 2011 should end higher than 2010’s total of 140,928 but far below Toyota’s pre-earthquake goal of more than 181,000 units.
With production headed back to normal and the new Prius V wagon coming to dealerships this fall, 2012 should be a banner year for the world’s leading hybrid. Next year will also see the release of the Prius Plug-in and compact Prius C, rounding out the family of cars the carmaker hopes will soon dominate as the world’s leading vehicle platform—gas or hybrid. So while 2008 and 2011 represent unfortunate missed opportunities for Toyota and the hybrid market as a whole, the longterm outlook has never been brighter.