Despite having legions of EVangelists penning spiteful stories about the Prius almost on a daily basis, the Toyota Prius remains the top-selling affordable green car in America. With a sales rate of over 5,000 units per month this year, and with monthly sales that have been well above 20,000 units in past years, the Prius has long been, and remains, the default green vehicle in America for under $30K. Why has it been so successful, and how has it remained a top-seller in light of the advent of the battery-electric vehicle? Good business practices could be the reason.
Toyota Advertises The Prius
Ask many EV advocates why their favorite model isn't selling as strongly as they'd like (or selling period) and many will tell you "Because the darn manufacturer doesn't advertise it!" This is a common theme on many models' fan sites. Toyota does advertise the Prius and always has. Every marketing major knows there are "4 Ps to marketing" Product, Price, Place, & Promotion.
Promotion is not a problem for the Prius. Toyota has bought Superbowl advertisements for Prius. Now into its second decade of sales, Toyota just rolled out a mass-media campaign supporting the Prius and highlighting its new all-wheel-drive system. The new Prius campaign is called, "It's Unbelievable." It is comprised of multiple 30-second TV adverts and Toyota is purchasing spots on major networks. It will also be run on radio and via social media of course.
Prius Top Safety Scores
The Prius is a commuter and family car intended for daily use. Every car in this segment needs to have top safety scores and the Prius has for generations. The 2019 Prius is a Top Safety Pick and scores a Good-Plus in IIHS child seat LATCH evaluations. Small details like that matter to family shoppers.
The Prius Exceeds MPG Expectations
Ask a Prius owner what their mileage is and they are likely to talk for half an hour. The primary mission of the Prius is to reduce petroleum consumption and no vehicle has been topping the list for fuel economy longer. However, doing what is promised isn't really how products become legends. The Prius beats its EPA-estimates on a daily basis. It did so around town in testing this summer in our fleet, and our resident racer Patrick Rall (who drives a Hellcat as his daily) beat the EPA Highway estimates with a Prius full of people and beer on the way to a concert a few years ago. The Prius is an icon because its owners know that it doesn't meet their expectations, it exceeds them.
The Prius Has a Cost-Per Mile For Energy That Rivals EVs
EV advocates often promote the purchase cost of their vehicle with the note, "After fuel savings." That is flat-out fraud in our opinion, but at a minimum it is insincere. The gasoline-only Prius hybrid has an annual fuel cost very similar to battery-electric vehicles' electricity costs. The plug-in Prius Prime PHEV has fuel costs almost identical to EV's energy costs. Toyota's cost of ownership focus is well known to smart green vehicle shoppers.
The Prius Has Low Maintenence & Repair Costs
Every Prius has two years of included maintenance. Couple that with an engine design that has no power steering fluid to change and no timing belt needing service and the Prius' cost for maintenance and repairs is as low as any green vehicle it competes with. If you are going to stay a top-seller for two decades, it helps if the vehicle has a low cost of ownership.
The Prius Is Fun To Drive
It's a shame, but tired (often uninformed) automotive writers often refer to the Prius as "boring" or "slow." The fact is, the Prius is a fun around-town car and very comfortable on the highway. It is a commuter/family car, and in that context, it's a fun-to-drive factor is in line with most buyers' expectations. The Prius has a 0-60 MPH time nearly identical to popular small crossovers and some midsized trucks. More evidence that the Prius is a decent driver is the fact that many Prius owners also own some pretty quick vehicles including BMW M Series cars, classic muscle cars, and other quick rides.
The Prius has certainly slowed its sales since its heyday, but that is also true of most other affordable green vehicles. What has kept it alive while cars like the Chevy Volt are killed off is a solid business plan.
See you in my next story where I am discussing Toyota Prius pros and cons vs Toyota Camry.
In addition to covering green vehicle topics, John Goreham covers safety, technology, and new vehicle news at Torque News. You can follow John on Twitter at @johngoreham.