Toyota says that U.S. sales of Prius will revive as oil prices rise

Article by Christian Andrei, on November 21, 2011

U.S. sales of the Toyota Prius had fallen by 9.4% through October compared to the previous year but Toyota Motor Corp. expects that its sales will recover with the increasing oil prices and its expanded inventory. Prius has been the No. 1 hybrid in terms of sales since 1997 but while its sales have declined, its rivals have also been on a downward trend. Autodata Corp. said that for this same period, sales of Honda Motor Co.'s Insight decreased by 21% while Ford Motor Co.'s Fusion Hybrid sedan fell by 48%.

Jim Lentz, president of Toyota's U.S. sales unit, said that it’s no surprise that overall hybrid sales volume fell this year since Toyota accounts for 70% of the market and it had to halt Prius output for nearly 90 days.

He clarified that the issue was a shortage of supply rather a drop in demand. For Toyota’s sales recovery in 2012 in the U.S., it is relying on sales of its gasoline-electric vehicles that will be led by an expanded Prius lineup.

Toyota is also depending on it in order to comply with more stringent fuel-economy standards. Due to the fluctuating gasoline prices, sales of the fuel- saving vehicles have also been unsteady. The demand had shot up when the average U.S. regular unleaded gasoline price hit a record $4.114 a gallon on July 17, 2008.

The supplies of automotive parts were disrupted by the disaster that hit Japan last March. Before this happened, Toyota had been aiming to set a Prius sales record this year with the planned heightened supply and expanded Prius-based model lineup.

According to AAA's Daily Fuel Gauge Report, the current average regular unleaded price is $3.38 a gallon. This is 17% higher than the previous year. Lentz believes that the price will increase even more in 2012.

Toyota Prius will be constructed using processes that cut pollution from the start of production through driving and eventually through disposal.

New Prius continues to improve in fuel economy. The first generation Prius had a 41 EPA combined miles per gallon, while the second generation had a 46 miles per gallon EPA rating. Now the new Prius has a better EPA rating at 50 miles per gallon, thanks to a mix of new technologies.

The new Prius has a bigger and more powerful 1.8-L engine. The four-cylinder Atkinson-cycle engine helps improve mileage on the highway where it can run at lower RPMs thanks to the increased torque. And the lower RPMs helps the new engine use less gas. The mileage is further enhanced in cold start conditions and also at faster speeds.

A new exhaust gas recirculation system and an electric water pump contribute to the efficiency of the 1.8-L engine. The new engine does not need belts under the hood to be fuel efficient and it needs less maintenance.

Toyota Prius also features a multi-information display panel that keeps track of the energy and fuel consumption. This gives you feedback on how efficient the Prius really is with three various displays that could teach the driver better driving habits that could lead to more fuel savings.

Prius is not like other hybrids in the market as it has been a full hybrid from the very start. You can operate the Prius using the battery alone, the engine alone or a mix of both. This system combines the best characteristics of both series and parallel hybrid designs to make it possible to operate the car on electric mode as well as recharge batteries while the vehicle is still running.

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