Price Comparison: Toyota Camry Hybrid v Prius PHEV at NAIAS 2012

Price Comparison: Toyota Camry Hybrid v Prius PHEV at NAIAS 2012

Toyota has been in a good place with its Prius line and now with its new Camry Hybrid. Question: Why is the Camry Hybrid cheaper than the Prius Plug-In?

Kind of interesting comparison at the NAIAS 2012. Could that $7,500 taxpayer subsidy have a part to play?

Fact is, the larger and more luxurious Camry Hybrid at the NAIAS 2012 is indeed shown to be priced less than the smaller, less luxurious plug-in Prius. Wonder how that will work out real life?

This comparison is not a against Toyota at all, but about how marketing and government subsidies create strange product avails. Both cars have a place in America’s heart as a transport vehicle. Still, one has to wonder about that inverted price delta.

In times past, greater luxury always trumped smaller size. Not so this time. That lithium-ion battery in that plug-in Prius is the culprit. And I thought technology was supposed to save money. Well, it does in this case, but not upfront.

In the mutual fund industry, this is called an upfront load; meaning you pay the management fee upfront rather than out of your profits. This may not be the best comparison, but it proves a point. Upfront is still upfront. Now remove that subsidy and see what you get. The lithium-ion battery costs too much money!

I am fully aware that lithium-ion battery technology is in its infancy, actually more like teen age; still, the cost of the development of the technology has been high. Green heads will cite ad nausea that it will take even greater time for the cost to come down. So, it is reasonable in their punkin heads that taxpayer subsidies make perfect sense, despite the fact they defile free market Capitalism at its core, and many of those who buy can afford it without the help of OPM (other peoples’ money).

So, since it has been deemed the logical target by the green movement and the government to make it worthy of that $7,500 taxpayer subsidy, is that why the delta in price between the Toyota Hybrid and the Prius Plug-In Hybrid are exactly $7,500?

Let’s review the math. The cost of the Prius starts at $32K, while the Camry Hybrid starts at $25.9K. Figure in that $7,500 subsidy and the cost to the buyer is nearly equivalent. Great, according to the typical green head. Not so fair to many in the public who still cannot afford either. Fact is, that delta is no coincidence. It highlights the fact that lithium-ion batteries are way to expensive. We didn;t see this before when these cars were concepts, but now the prices on the floor show for all to see.

This dichotomy really caught my attention as I was perusing the Toyota display during Press Preview at NAIAS 2012. So, I went a step further, shot a few videos and recorded my comments as they popped into my head. Watch.

Point is, electrification has its limits as in cost; and the IC engine choice is still crucial and will remain crucial. Just recall the study that says 80% of cars even by 2025 will still be IC engines.

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First, Prius PHEV's tax credit will be closer to $2500 than $7500, bringing post-credit price down to $29.5k. The closest point of comparison to the PHEV Prius is the 2012 Prius Three at $25.5k. So the PHEV system costs an extra $4k with the subsidy, or $6.5k without. Up to the consumer if they think the plug-in functionality is justified. If you want to compare Prius vs Camry Hybrid, start with the 2012 Prius Three. $26k, same as the Camry Hybrid LE $26k. Camry is a bit larger, same headroom but 3" extra shoulder room and 3" extra rear leg room. 93.7 cu ft passenger space vs 102.7 cu ft passenger space in the Camry. Prius gets noticeably better fuel economy, at 51/48 mpg vs 43/39 mpg. Prius has a bit more cargo space in the hatch (21.6) vs the Camry Hybrid's 13.4 cu ft in the trunk. Prius Three also has about $2500 in extra features the Camry Hybrid LE is missing (per * Entune ICE system * navigation and rear camera * alloy wheels (yes, the $26k camry hybrid has steelies with wheel covers) I haven't sat in a '12 camry or prius, so it may well be that the interior or the ride in the Camry is nicer. Combined passenger and cargo space is about the same, just the splits are different. Here's another point of comparison: '12 Prius V. Passenger space is about the same as the Camry Hybrid, cargo space is significantly larger (34 cu ft vs 13 cu ft). Mileage is about the same (44/40 for the V), cost is the same if you compare the Prius V Two to the Camry LE Hybrid (Two drops the navigation and Entune ICE system).