Sales in the U.S. for Toyota’s Prius hybrids broke records for the month of March and for the first quarter. Toyota attributed the boost to the increasing fuel prices and the arrival of two new models. Bob Carter, group vice president of U.S. sales, said via an e-mail that Toyota sold over 25,000 units in March of the Prius “family.”
This lineup now includes a plug-in Prius and c subcompact, as well as the original hatchback and v wagon. The Prius’ monthly sales peaked in May 2007, with a delivery of 24,009 units. Toyota is on track to achieve its target of 220,000 Prius units sold in the U.S. this year, higher than the 136,463 units sold in 2011.
This model makes up about half of hybrid sales in the U.S. There was a shortage last year because of the calamity that had hit Japan, affecting industrywide deliveries to drop to about 273,000 units from 275,000 the previous year. Takashi Aoki, senior fund manager at Mizuho Asset Management Co. in Tokyo, said that with this pace and the U.S. economy’s recovery, the goal for the Prius seems to be fairly achievable.
Aoki said that Toyota’s move to increase the price of the bigger Prius models is a good sign that the company is working to make these models more profitable as well. Typically, hybrid sales will increase when gasoline prices also go up.
The regular grade gasoline is priced at an average of $3.93 a gallon on April 1. This is an increase from $3.28 at the end of 2011, according to AAA’s Daily Fuel Gauge. In the e-mail, Carter said that fuel economy continues to be a top factor to consider when making a purchase.
Unveiled during the 2011 Frankfurt Motor Show, the new Toyota Prius has its front section redesigned to make it even more dynamic. The front bumper in particular follows the Under Priority design wherein the focus was on making the lower grille larger.
This is, of course, to ensure that the new Prius continues to have the new design that the brand implemented for the next generation. In addition, the design of the clear lens headlamps is new as well. Meanwhile the configuration of the LED lamp was redesigned with the daytime running lights now integrated with the bumper. Redesigned as well are the indicator lamps which have been placed on the door mirrors.
The latter in particular comes with a power-folding function. Toyota also made sure to redesign the combination lamps in the rear, making the new Prius immediately recognizable even at night. Offered as an option is the solar roof, which can be paired with either the 15-inch wheels or the current alloy 17-inch wheels fitted as standard.
Another highlight of the third generation Prius is that it comes with remote controlled air conditioning combined with the solar ventilation system, a first in the world. The air conditioning itself can be turned on remotely and by utilizing the hybrid battery, which itself has a large capacity, it is able to cool the inside for at most three minutes before anyone enters it.
Meanwhile the solar ventilation system makes sure that the temperature of the air in interior is prevented from increasing especially when parked. Technological features also abound in the new Prius like the Intelligent Parking Assist. By simply choosing a parking sport, the system immediately maneuvers this model to it. This is made possible with the use of a rear view camera and ultrasonic sensors.
Using all of these, the system is able to determine what steering movement is needed in order to move in reverse to the parking sport. The only thing left for the driver to do is simply control how fast the vehicle is moving.
Despite being launched two years ago, it is estimated that in Europe alone, at least 100,000 units of the third generation version have been sold. Even now, it can still attract new customers to Toyota. In the first half of 2011 for example, 50% of Prius sales were made to new customers who have patronized many of its rivals.