2014 Prius Plug-In defies skeptics with sales leap as California HOV lane stickers run out
The 2014 Toyota Prius Plug-In hybrid electric vehicle just had its best month of sales ever, despite one factor that many said would result in its sales dropping significantly. That factor was the availability of the California HOV lane stickers for the Prius Plug-In. The strikers for it ran out in April. Yet, despite the dire warnings from some EV advocates, the Prius Plug-In sold better in the month of May than it ever has. In fact, sales were up four-fold over May 2013. It is again the number two vehicle with a plug in the US for the second straight month after only the Nissan leaf, which also had a banner month of sales.
California HOV Sticker Program Runs Out of Green Stickers
In California there is a sticker system that dictates which cars get to drive with just one occupant in the “High Occupancy Vehicle” or HOV lanes. To those in California, the biggest green car market on Earth, these stickers are a big deal. Electric vehicles (EVs) have one type of sticker (white) and cars that can run on electricity sometimes, but also have a gasoline powered engine, get another sticker (green). It is a bit more complicated than that (of course!), but that is a quick summary. In April the green ones ran out, but as far back in March the California Department of Motor Vehicles ended a program that allowed car dealers to pre-emptively apply for the stickers. There is no doubt that both dealers and buyers were aware by May 1st that the Prius Plug-In would not receive a sticker.
Why Do EV Advocates Dislike the Prius Plug-In?
For reasons that we have a hard time understanding, there are a lot of negative feelings from advocates of electric vehicles towards the Prius and the Prius Plug-In. It is very common for our stories to have comments from EV fans expressing thoughts other than positive about these green vehicles. For example, one reader and commenter we respect wrote under a popular Prius Plug-in story we published about 5 weeks ago “The PIP doesn't provide much value as a plug-in hybrid. Range is crap and it costs about the same as a Volt after tax credits. My guess is that a ton of people buy these in California to get green stickers. They drive them every day, never plugging them in. This will all change next month. The green stickers have run out.” This is not an unusual comment. On another site we follow a premium EV owner expressed her frustration that people were buying affordable Volts and Prius Plug-Ins, and to paraphrase her comments, “never planning to run them on electricity, but are just hogging up the HOV lanes burning gas.” Our survey of Facebook and other social media commentary find similar examples of this viewpoint. We don’t agree, or disagree with it. We simply wish to convey that the sentiment exists and that it is not just one or two vocal advocates as far as we can determine.
Sales Go Up After Stickers Run Out
Now that the valuable green stickers have been gone for more than a full calendar month, and sales have not gone down, but rather skyrocketed, we surmise that the Prius Plug-In does have a legitimate following that is not buying it simply so they can access the special lanes.
Stickers Could Return
However, the stickers may not be gone forever. As has been reported by Transportevolved.com, there is a pending bill to extend the program. We checked with 3 sources we know that are closely following the developments of the bill AB-2013 in California, and also looked at the bill’s status on legiscan.com. All our sources agree that at the time of this report the program is not yet extended.
Prius Outsells All EVs Combined
The Prius nameplate remains the best-selling green vehicle in the world. Although it had been on a sales slide since late 2013, the Prius family overall was up this month and sold 26,793 units. The Prius family outsold the entire EV and plug-in market in the US by a factor of about 2 to 1 in May.
Photo by Fernand Bos. Used with permission. White sticker shown.