Let’s talk fuel efficiency.
Gas prices keep going up, people keep complaining, blah blah blah. Nothing new to report there.
It’s the cars that people choose to buy as prices rise that remains an interesting, though somewhat predictable, topic. One new highly efficient car has outsold the February totals of both the Chevy Volt and Nissan Leaf.
In just three days.
The Toyota Prius family of gas/electric hybrids has grown to include four models: The 3rd-generation Prius, the plug-in Prius, the Prius V and the Prius C. Including all models, Toyota hopes to sell 220,000 of the hybrids to Americans this year. The smallest of the bunch is the Prius C, which has earned EPA estimates of 53 mpg in the city and 46 on the highway. Priced from the high teens to low 20s, the car sold 1,201 copies in the first three days it was available. That’s more than the Volt and the Leaf sold in all of February.
So it seems U.S. consumers want high-mileage cars with a reasonable price that they can drive anywhere. The only big surprise here is that Toyota is the first one to really figure this out. A $40,000 Volt or a $30,000 limited-range Leaf just don’t fit the bill for most Americans. Neither do ridiculously small cars like the smart fortwo or Scion iQ, which should return better fuel economy than they do, considering their size.
I’ll go on record right now and and say that Toyota won’t be able to make enough of the Prius C. A sub-$20,000 car that gets 53 miles per gallon will hit the right chord with American buyers. My hope is for other automakers to see the success of the Prius family and compete hard with Toyota. Not just with hybrid technology, either, but with small diesel engines in cars the size of the Prius C.
The Prius C, and whatever comes along to compete with it, will be the cars we’ll use to bridge the gap until we find an energy source to replace fossil fuels. Well, until Newt Gingrich gets elected as president and gas prices drop to $2.50 again. Then we’ll forget all about our hybrids, diesels and hydrogen-powered cars and start buying gasoline-thirsty V8s again.
Would you be interested in a $20,000 car that gets 53 miles per gallon?