Prius in “Incredible” Sales Boom

June 1, 2012

Just as the fossil-fuel-dominated right wing media hates the Chevy Volt this year, they used to hate the previous cutting edge fuel efficient vehicle, the Toyota Prius.  The Prius has now, after 15 years, become the third best selling car in the world.  On hearing the news, right wing climate deniers only grumble and grip their buggy whips more tightly…

Media Matters: 

The Prius is now the world’s third best-selling car line, but before it became a clear success story, it was the target of attacks from conservative media similar to those now being leveled against electric vehicles.

In 2000, the year the Prius was released in the U.S., Diane Katz and Henry Payne wrote at the Wall Street Journal that hybrid cars are not “what the public wants.” The next year, the Cato Institute’s Patrick Michaels declared the Prius would “never” deliver a profit for Toyota and hyped how “demand has been weak” for hybrids. That these conservative pundits have clearly been proven wrong with time is a lesson for today’s pundits who suggest that current electric car sales mean that electric cars will never be successful. As Bloomberg reporter Jamie Butters noted in a video report, “a lot of people will criticize the sales of the Chevy Volt by GM or the Nissan Leaf, but when you really look back they’re selling at significantly higher opening volumes than the Prius when it came out 15 years ago.”

Even after Prius sales had significantly ramped up, conservative media were still downplaying the market for hybrids in the U.S. In 2004, a Fox News guest declared that “Americans don’t want hybrids”:

JOHN GIBSON: What about hybrids? Is it true that Americans desperately want hybrids and get better gas mileage and be kinder to the environment, or is that sort of environmentalist propaganda?

DAVID NAUGHTON, NEWSWEEK: Americans don’t want hybrids. That’s not true at all. Americans are buying a few hybrids, but Hummer outsells the Toyota Prius by two to one. And even Toyota sells as many Camrys in a couple of months as they will an entire year of Prius.

It gets a ton of attention. It’s a technological marvel, but as long as gas is $1.50 a gallon in this country, people don’t want green cars. They want big cars; they want SUV’s. [Fox News, The Big Story with John Gibson, 1/6/04, via Nexis]

That same year, The Weekly Standard‘s Henry Payne called tax incentives for hybrid vehicles a “sweet bonus for upscale customers like Arianna Huffington and Cameron Diaz.” The criticism is strikingly similar to the conservative narrative that electric car subsidies only benefit the rich, when in fact tax incentives help make electric vehicles available to the middle class, just as they did with the Prius.

In 2005, the Wall Street Journal‘s Holman Jenkins dedicated twocolumns to spewing contrariannonsense claiming if more people switched to Priuses, it wouldn’t reduce oil consumption. And in 2007 Rush Limbaugh absurdlydeclared that driving a Prius causes “more environmental damage than if you had a Hummer.” Electric cars have recently endured similar attacks from conservative media outlets who deny the fact that they have substantially lower carbon dioxide emissions and feign concern about how the batteries will be recycled.

Fox News was running with similar attacks in 2006: suggesting that the Prius would not sell, criticizing incentives for hybrid cars, and sowing unwarranted doubt about the environmental benefits of hybrids.


It seems like it was just a few years ago that car manufacturers used to laugh at us when we’d ask why a new model didn’t get any better fuel economy than its outgoing predecessor. “Car buyers don’t care about fuel economy,” was the refrain, “They certainly won’t pay for it.

A few years of three- and four-dollar-per-gallon gas has apparently changed that attitude. According to a new study by Consumer Reports, 37 percent of respondents said fuel economy was now their leading consideration in car shopping, topping all others by a landslide.

Quality was the second-most-important factor at 17 percent, while safety was mentioned by 16 percent, and value by 14 percent of shoppers. Two-thirds of respondents said they expected their next new vehicle to beat their current one on fuel economy. And yes, it is the economy, stupid, as 90 percent of those surveyed said high gas prices were the reason why they wanted a more fuel-efficient vehicle.

18 Responses to “Prius in “Incredible” Sales Boom”

  1. Mike Says:

    Like I said in a previous post, if the rightwingers bag it, buy shares in it.

  2. It’s great news that fuel economy is now the highest priority for consumers, more than twice as high as quality or safety even. Fox had something of a point there, that fuel economy is a hard sell when gas is $1.50/gallon, but those days are over. Now Toyota is looking brilliant for getting out in front in hybrid technology.

    In a few years, we’ll probably be saying the same thing about Nissan and Chevy in terms of plug-in hybrids and EVs.

  3. does anyone really care about all this? what about something else for a change..people are struggling be honest not a lot of people care …

  4. At $1.50 a gal plugging an electric vehicle in every night, is a pain in the rear. It will not nearly so painful when fuel approaches $10 gal. There may be plenty of oil left, but the cheap oil is gone.

    I think you will find the market penetration of electric vehicles faster than anyone predicts. At the moment electric vehicles are expensive, given time and market share the price should fall relative to ICE. Electric vehicles will not suit every situation, but every electric vehicle means more gasoline for the remainder.

    For those few times a year I want to go further, hiring a car is really not that dear.

    Perhaps I should ride my bike to work more than once a week,

    • otter17 Says:

      Good points..

      It is also quite possible that unconventional oil cannot make up nearly what is lost to conventional oil depletion. Fortunately, the USA is the “Saudi Arabia” of wasted oil, and with efficiency measures and alternatives to oil use, I think we can make it in the near term without too much pain. *crosses fingers*

  5. In The Netherlands the Prius Wagon (or Prius V), a 7 seater, is now in the showroom (May 2012). The extra investment in the hybrid system is subsidized. For 18 months no car/road taxes. The fuel consumption is lower then a down sized diesel engine. Reliability is OK. Car is good looking. Options are OK.
    Why not buying a Prius?

    On July 5th my car will be delivered. It is now sailing from Japan to Europe.

    For shopping and leisure we do a lot of biking (Also hybrid with a E-bike)

    The possibilities of adding electrical power systems to drive trains is paramount for the transition to all electrical systems. And it is not boring al all!


    • anonymous Says:

      Once you get it, pray tell us how it accelerates in overtaking, or getting out of the traffic light 😉

    • bobinchiclana Says:

      No, but you would need a boat as the likelihood is the Florida will be underwater in the not too distant future!

      • My island is 10+ feet above the mean high water mark no been to worry about global warming for at least 100 years.
        Thank you

        • g2-b31f1590b0e74a6d1af4639162aa7f3f Says:

          Global-warming or not, a good hurricane storm surge will put your entire little island underwater — but then again, that’s why you are trying to sell, right?

          • Sure this can happen to a Large island like Japan Too:)

            I Don’t live with this fear, some people may and some people can only dream of owning a private island:)

            One thing is for sure, there is only one private island for sale by owner in Ormond Beach, Florida and you can find it right here:)

          • Sure a huracane could wipe out everything in its path and surge can too. Look at what happened to Japan. But this is no reason to lay down and die. Enjoy life & build a home on the only private island for sale by owner in Ormond Beach, Florida and don’t worry be happy. One of a kind private island for sale by owner in Ormond Beach Florida:

          • Mike Says:

            I’ll give you a miserly AUS$2 for it. After all, its only money. Look at what’s happening in Europe. That’s all because of money. Everyone worries about money so the more you’ve got, the more you’ve got to worry about. Accept my offer and I’ll be able to relax on my own private island 10+ feet above sealevel and you won’t have any money…I mean worries. It’s a win-win offer.

  6. I absolutely love my 2011 Prius and I didn’t get any tax breaks or subsidies other than the fact that my gasoline usage is cut in half even though I was driving a fairly economical sedan before. The Prius was simply the best new car available at a local dealer for me.

    I live in a pretty conservative area politically but I have noticed a whole bunch of Prii popping up around me all the sudden. People are buying these things for the quality and practicality not because of any greenie weenie sort of motivation.

  7. MorinMoss Says:

    I’ll stand by what I’ve said in the past – if Toyota had worked at expanding the Prius line 10 years ago, given it a progressively bigger battery AND made it a plugin hybrid, there would be several times more Priuses already on the roads and Toyota would be the ones carrying the EV trophy.

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