Is the Toyota Prius Losing its Green Car Crown to Plug-In Cars?

For the past ten years, hybrid cars have been seen as the number one way for car buyers to get into a greener car. As a consequence, Toyota’s Prius family of hybrids, the Prius C, V and Liftback, have experienced healthy sales, along with hybrid cars made by Ford and Honda.

But are hybrids losing their crown on the green car market to all-electric and plug-in hybrids? US sales data from the first quarter of 2014 seems to suggest so. As Autobloggreen reported, an increase in sales for EVs and plug-in hybrids compared to the first quarter of 2013 suggests that hybrids could be losing out to plug-in cars.

Standard hybrids lose out

All versions of Toyota’s iconic Prius, bar the plug-in, suffered a sales drop when compared to last year. These range from a 10% drop for the Prius C to a 30% drop for the Prius V. The Prius Plug-in Hybrid, however, had an increase of a touch over 40%.

This follows through to Ford too, with the Ford C-Max Energi plug-in hybrid electric vehicle (PHEV) increasing sales by just over 40% . This puts the regular C-Max Hybrid to shame as it experienced 53% drop in sales.

The Ford C-Max Energi Saw an Increase in Sales of 40% from Q1 2013.

The Ford C-Max Energi Saw an Increase in Sales of 40% from Q1 2013.

The same applies to Ford’s Fusion cars. The standard hybrid saw a sales drop of nearly 6.5% while the Fusion Energi PHEV gaining a massive sales increase of 434%.

These figures lead us to ask, are customers forsaking standard hybrids for their plug in counterparts? Certainly, if shopping for a specific model that burns the least fuel a plug-in would look more attractive over a standard hybrid.

But not all manufacturers have comparable models. For example the Honda Fit EV doesn’t have a standard hybrid to compare with. Which means a customer looking at a standard Fit only has the choice to jump from the gas version to fully electric. Possibly a step too far for someone just looking for a city runaround.

In these cases a look at the whole Honda range paints a similar picture: The Honda Civic Hybrid, CR-Z and Insight all suffered from sales drops of 15%, 21% and 8% respectively. But the Honda brand saw an increase in sales for their Fit EV and Accord PHEV of 117% and 53%.

The Nissan Leaf – again with no hybrid nor, indeed, any internal combustion version for comparison – saw a massive increase in sales of over 45% from last year.

Plug-in cars that didn’t do so well

In fact, the only plug in cars that didn’t improve on their sales over the first quarter of 2013 is the Chevrolet Volt that saw a drop in sales of 15% and the Ford Focus Electric that dropped by 3%.

The Volt Saw a Drop in Sales of x% in the First Quarter of this Year.

The Volt Saw a Drop in Sales of 15% in the First Quarter of this Year.

This possible trend is interesting and while at the moment there still aren’t enough plug-in sales to state anything with confidence it does possibly suggest that certain customers are looking for the most economical car they can have.

Could it be that the rise of the Prius and other hybrids really was down to them being the best ‘at the moment’ rather than the ‘car that people really wanted’? Are many of these hybrid drivers just making do until a plug in hybrid or fully electric version of a car they need comes out?

Let us know your thoughts below:


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