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Toyota reports strong Prius c sales, boasts more sold than Leaf and Volt

The Toyota Prius c went on sale in the U.S. a few days ago, and is (unsurprisingly) very popular with strong sales out of the gate, leading Toyota to boast that Prius sales outstrip electric car sales.

The Toyota Prius c may be the smaller sibling in the Prius family, but that doesn't mean it won't make a big impact in the world. Small is sometimes powerful, small is sometimes attractive, and small in this case is proving to be popular. The Toyota Prius c went on sale in the U.S. a week ago and Toyota is reporting strong sales in its first few days on the market.

The Toyota Prius c launched earlier this week, coinciding with an ad campaign themed on Hasbro's Game of Life. The car is clearly a Prius, from shape and styling to the drive train technology. However it is more compact than the traditional Prius Liftback, and it has a smaller engine. The result is an even higher miles/gallon rating, 53 miles/gallon, and a lower price starting at under $19,000.

Toyota reports that in its first three days on the U.S. market, that dealers have sold 1,201 Toyota Prius C's. Toyota boasts this more than sales of Leaf's and Volts in all of February.

For Toyota to make this comparison indicates that Toyota is (perhaps nervously) watching electric car sales closely, because Toyota sees sales of electric cars as a threat to the Prius brand. At the moment, of course, Prius sales totally swamp sales of electric cars, but Toyota surely knows its history very well. The early years of the Prius were just as tough an uphill slog as is being seen with todays electric cars. GM and Nissan spokespersons repeatedly say there were more sales of both the Leaf and Volt in their first year, than there were Prius's sold in its first year on the U.S. market. What Toyota appears to be saying by boasting higher sales than the Leaf and Volt, is that the market is showing stronger interest in hybrid cars than electric. What GM and Nissan appear to be saying is to be patient, and that the Prius history demonstrates there can be a slow adoption of new technology before it takes off.

The Prius c launch comes in a period where Toyota Prius sales are strong in general. Toyota reports that sales in the first half of March of all Prius models (Prius Liftback, Prius v, and now the Prius c) have totaled 9,821 units. The Prius Plug-in has yet to go on sale. Total Prius sales in February was 20,593 units and there were 32,593 Prius's sold so far in 2012.

Traffic on twitter and other online sites mirror Toyota's report of strong sales. The advertising campaign is apparently embarrassing some Prius owners, but the Prius c itself is being well received. The forums are full of reports of excited test drive experiences, calling it a "cute" car, and documenting the mad rush to buy Prius C's.

One Twitter poster aptly summed up the response to the Prius c, versus response to the Leaf or Volt, as "Cost, cost, cost, brand". Both the Leaf and Volt obviously cost a lot more than the Prius c, limiting the range of buyers for those cars. Additionally, the Prius is a well established brand, one that has already slogged its way to broad market acceptance, making the addition of new Prius models a slam-dunk on Toyota's part.

As has been seen in the past, high gasoline prices is spurring interest in efficient cars. “A number of factors drive the auto market, and fuel prices is one of them,” said Bob Carter, group vice president and general manager of the Toyota Division. “With 53 miles-per-gallon in the city and priced under $19,000, the timing for Prius c couldn’t be better.”