Trying to sell someone a hybrid car while gas prices are low is a little like selling summer clothes in Barrow, Alaska.
It might be a great concept, but if there’s not a lot of need, there won’t be a lot of sales.
Such is the case with the newest version of the Toyota Prius. Yes, it’s one of the best hybrids that the market has ever seen. Yes, it’s at least somewhat fun, engaging, and, some might say, even good-looking.
The new Prius Prime is so good, in fact, it might render the regular Prius obsolete.
If, that is, anyone can be convinced to buy one.
The all-new Prius Prime is a plug-in gas/electric hybrid with a range of 25 miles from the 8.8 kWh battery and another 615 miles from the gas tank. The standard Prius is a regular hybrid that doesn’t need to be plugged in but only goes a mile or two on electrons before the gas motor kicks in.
The Prius Prime is good for 54 miles per gallon when using the gas tank, compared with the standard Prius’s rating of 52.
Toyota designers even made the Prime look better than your standard Prius. LED headlights give the plug-in hybrid a look that borders on aggressive. Out back, there’s a bigger wing with integrated taillights that create a track of red light at the back of the car.
Here’s the kicker: The federal tax credit that’s available on the Prius Prime can make it less expensive than the standard version.
So why would anyone opt to buy a regular Prius if it costs more, doesn’t get as many miles per gallon, and lacks the aggressive design of the Prime?
Frankly, I don’t know. Toyota may have done itself a disservice by producing the Prime, because it’s the best competition to the Prius on the market. But here’s the rub: Toyota’s first year capacity and sales goal is around 22,000 units for the Prius Prime. The standard Prius will sell at least four times as many.
Even with low gas prices, Toyota shouldn’t have a problem moving those 22,000 cars. The Prius Prime may be the best hybrid Toyota has ever built, and dealers may find themselves out of stock and trying to nudge buyers back toward the standard Prius.
If you go shopping for a Prius Prime, beware of dealer markups and act fast if you find a good deal. This one could quickly disappear, at least until Toyota can increase production.
Are you concerned about gas prices? What are the odds that you’ll buy a hybrid as your next car?