Of the more than five million hybrid cars that Toyota and Lexus sold in the world in the past 16 years, 40 percent were sold in the United States. The Toyota Prius was released in December 1997 in Japan where it slowly gained traction. However, the gas-electric car only arrived in the U.S. in 2000 when it was due for a mid-cycle refresh.
In the first six months that the Prius was available, Toyota only sold 5562 units. But it experienced a surge in sales in 2003 when the more in-demand second-generation car was launched, revealing a new liftback form. Since 1997, Toyota’s range of hybrid model grew as it added Lexus cars and SUVs. Presently, there are 12 American gas-electric models.
These are the Lexus CT, ES, GS, LS, and RX hybrids, as well as the Toyota Prius and Prius Plug-In, Prius c, Prius v, Camry Hybrid, Avalon Hybrid, and Highlander Hybrid. With this extensive lineup, it’s not surprising that both Toyota and Lexus reached total sales of 1,951,243 hybrids, making up around 40 percent of the company’s worldwide hybrid sales so far.
Toyota claims that its hybrid cars account for 70 percent of the U.S. and that U.S.-market hybrids make up around 20 percent of annual Toyota/Lexus international hybrid sales. Toyota further asserts that because of its hybrids, 34 million fewer tons of carbon dioxide were not released into the atmosphere.
Its hybrids also reportedly saved owners from using up three billion gallons of gas. Toyota has grand plans for its hybrid range. It hopes to release 18 new hybrids between now and the end of 2015 but it’s not certain if this number includes the already-introduced or updated models such as the Highlander Hybrid.
It’s believed that as Toyota is preparing to release more models and consumers have become more familiar with the concept of owning/driving a hybrid, Toyota could reach its target of selling one million hybrid sales a year throughout the world, with the U.S. accounting for about one third of those sales.
It was reported in October 2012 that Toyota has concentrated on advancing its hybrid powertrain technologies, while rivals such as Ford, Honda, Mazda, Hyundai and Volkswagen developing technologies that would improve fuel economy in gasoline engines like gasoline direct fuel injection and turbochargers.
The turbocharger technology has Toyota’s rivals to maintain output while making engines smaller, vehicles lighter and fuel consumption lower. Toyota, however, it plans to launch a new direct-injection engine in 2013 and a first downsized turbocharged engine in 2014. Toyota likewise has committed to employ continuously variable transmissions (CVT) across its range of small- to medium-sized offerings.