Today in History – April 30, 2008 – Toyota Prius worldwide sales top 1 million mark. Although the Toyota Prius started as a niche green car when Toyota unveiled the first generation in 1997 it has become the highest selling hybrid on the market. Toyota announced that its cumulative sales passed the 1 million mark, with approximately 1,028,000 units sold as of the end of April, 2008.
The name “Prius” comes from the Latin “to go before” and, based on their pioneering leadership in hybrid vehicles, they certainly can claim this title.
The Prius was first launched in Japan in December, 1997 and began selling in Europe, North America and other markets in 2000. In 2005, Toyota began first overseas production of the Prius in Changchun, China, and sales of Prius vehicles in South Korea are expected to begin in the latter half of 2009. In 2003, the second-generation Prius, equipped with the Toyota Hybrid System II, was introduced with improved environmental performance and power. In August 2007, Prius G, S and S “Standard Package” Japan models achieved a fuel efficiency of 29.6km/l in the Japanese Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport’s newly introduced JC08 test cycle. (The Prius S and S “Standard Package” models achieved 35.5km/l in the older 10-15 test cycle.) The Prius is also one of the first vehicles to meet the new 2015 Japanese fuel efficiency standards set out under the Law Concerning the Rational Use of Energy (http://www.toyota.co.jp/en/news/08/0515.html).
According to Toyota, Prius vehicles worldwide have contributed to a reduction in CO2 emissions (considered a cause of global warming) by producing approximately 4.5 million tons less CO2 when compared with gasoline-powered vehicles in the same class and of similar size and driving performance.
However, Toyota’s U.S. sales have been battered by the ongoing economic slowdown, tumbling 39.8 percent from February 2009. Gasoline prices, which surged during the first half of last year, have come down drastically, and it is unclear whether gasoline-electric hybrids will continue to sell as briskly as they have in recent years (http://www.theautochannel.com/news/2009/03/12/453117.html)
Toyota is introducing the third-generation Prius later this year, but that is expected to meet intense competition from the Insight hybrid from Japanese rival Honda Motor Co. Honda recently introduced a new Honda as the cheapest hybrid ($19,800) in the U.S. market.
However, Prius is still the world’s top-selling hybrid. Toyota is dedicated to eventually offering a 100% hybrid line-up, boasting that hybrids will be the standard drivetrain by 2020.
“One million hybrids in less than nine years indicate how quickly American consumers have accepted this important technology,” Jim Lentz, Toyota’s top U.S. executive, said in a statement (http://www.clublexus.com/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=555&Itemid=155).