2012 Toyota Prius Plug-in Hybrid: 3rd Fastest-Selling Car In U.S.?

Follow Nikki

2012 Toyota Prius Plug-In Hybrid, production version road test, San Diego, CA, Jan 2012

2012 Toyota Prius Plug-In Hybrid, production version road test, San Diego, CA, Jan 2012

Enlarge Photo

What makes a new car a success? Is it the awards it wins, initial sales figures, how many people order it, or the average amount of time it stays on a dealer lot before being sold? 

Together, all of the above help us work out which cars are popular and which ones aren’t, but according to Cars.com (via Autobloggreen), the 2012 Toyota Prius Plug-in Hybrid is proving to be a runaway hit on dealer lots nationwide. 

Quick to sell

Using nationwide car sales data for the months of March and April, Cars.com concluded that on average, Toyota’s plug-in hybrid spends just five days on the dealer lot before being sold. 

During March, that made the 2012 Toyota Prius Plug-in Hybrid the second fastest selling car in the United States. During April, it came third to the recently-launched 2013 BMW X3 and 2013 BMW X5, both of which sold in an average of four days. 

2012 Toyota Prius Plug-In Hybrid, production version road test, San Diego, CA, Jan 2012

2012 Toyota Prius Plug-In Hybrid, production version road test, San Diego, CA, Jan 2012

Enlarge Photo

Fast-selling ≠ High sales

But before getting too excited about the speed at which the 2012 Prius Plug-in Hybrid, we need to remember that it has only been on sale since the end of February. 

From launch until the end of April, Toyota had sold 2,552 plug-in Priuses, leading plug-in car sales during April. Examine its sales figures in the wider automotive world however, and its sales figures aren’t all that large. 

To put it into perspective, Toyota only sold 1,654 plug-in Priuses in April. Ford sold over 4.7 times that amount of 2012 Mustangs during the same period, and yet the average Mustang waits on the dealer lot for more than eleven weeks before being sold. 

On sales alone, it’s pretty easy to see the 2012 Ford Mustang is more popular than the 2012 Prius Plug-in Hybrid. It just takes longer to sell. 

Supply, demand

That last fact brings us neatly to the question of supply versus demand. 

As with many new cars, initial pre-sales hype combined with pre-order waiting lists often means that demand for the car is higher than the number of cars being produced. 

Even when all pre-orders have been satisfied, cars like the 2012 Toyota Prius Plug-in Hybrid, with production numbers that can be measured in thousands and tens-of-thousands rather than millions, will still sell quickly for a few months following launch. 

2012 Toyota Prius Plug-In Hybrid, production version road test, San Diego, CA, Jan 2012

2012 Toyota Prius Plug-In Hybrid, production version road test, San Diego, CA, Jan 2012

Enlarge Photo

Look to long-term success

After a few months, it is clear that demand for the 2012 Toyota Prius Plug-in Hybrid is high, and that any cars that are delivered to dealers are snapped up quickly by customers eager to make the switch to a plug-in car. 

Initial sales successes can be transient, however. In order to truly become a popular, in-demand, quickly-selling car, Toyota will have to replicate the initial sales burst for the next year or more. 

Only then will we really know for sure. 


Follow GreenCarReports on Facebook and Twitter.

Follow Us

Comments (12)
  1. Toyota are a Japanese JIT manufacturer, having stock sat on lots for 11 weeks at a time is wasteful. Ford are a big wasteful American company who still mass-produce and don't mind having huge piles of capital tied up sitting on dealership lots. They also bully the dealers into buying the cars in bulk and paying up front, rather than Toyota who have no minimum purchase and offer sale-or-return terms.

    2500 sales in a month nationwide of their new flagship hybrid is certainly nothing to shout about. This article speaks more about Toyota's efficient supply chain and favourable business terms than how popular the new Prius really is.

  2. Observation from a Consumer Eager to Buy an EV: The decent Prius sale numbers are based on the affordable price and full efficiency! It's that simple.

    Thanks for the article, Nikki. This info shows that regardless of the negative mass media coverage on EVs and hybrids, people know better.

  3. To gain a better perspective, the Volt was in very visible development for years (with its own website) yet fell flat on its face when it finally came out. It's pretty easy to see why the Prius plug-in is doing well, despite a lack of advertising and an introduction that came suddenly, without warning. I'm surprised anyone knows they're out there. I don't see the Volt or the Leaf as competitive with this car. And it looks as though the
    battery and range can be increased with minimal effort, a flexible design. Seems that Toyota thought about plug ins and their issues longer and harder than GM ever did with their Volt (GM approved their car thinking the battery pack would cost half as much as it did!!!). Teaming up with Tesla was also smart.

  4. Really, Kent? You're surprised that people even know the PIP is out there...? Hmm, I'm seeing commercials and they've been talking about it for years, hence all the press coverage at sites like this... And I especially how extremely limited data for the PIP is taken as proof of something but increasing sales of the Volt is mysteriously ignored... Oh, that's right, it's Mr. Anti-Volt here...

    So, if Toyota thought about PI's more than GM, how does that jibe with the common concensus laughing about the almost nonexistent EV range of the PIP?

    They don't compete? Yeah, what's that lease price for the PIP? Just about the same as a Volt. My Volt is $381/month for a loaded version and the extra EV range saves more than the PIP would.

  5. Yeah. Toyota thought harder, TO SCAM THE SYSTEM. First, it installed barely enough battery to meet the minimum $2,500 Federal tax credit, then it SCAM CARB of California to gain HOV access while most of the drivers won't be in EV mode while traveling in those HOV lanes...

    it is a SCAM.

  6. There is not scam with the plug-in Prius anymore than there is with the Volt. The federal government set up a rebate schedule that (not coincidentally) starts at the Plug-in Prius and ends with the Volt. This is no doubt due to the lobbying efforts of these companies and law makers considering what they wanted.

    If you believe the law is thoughtful, then thoughtful people have decided that below 4KWH has little value and above 16 KWH has little additional value, i.e. diminishing returns. Seems perfectly reasonable with the economics and physics.

  7. Well, at least the Volt can operate in EV mode regardles how you drive.

    Prius Plugin can NOT even operate in EV mode at all if you press down more than 1/3 on the peddle. I have driven the Prius Plugin, it is almost impossible to make it stay in EV mode unless I coast downhill. If it is NOT a scam, then what is? Don't even get me started on the 62mph limit. If the 4.4KWhr battery can function as full electric in the first 3-4 miles, then I would at least give it a full credit. But it can't. Not just b/c its battery capacity, b/c it can't even function as pure EV in normal driving mode.

  8. Comparing plug in Prius to Mustang is a far reach? Why not pick up trucks, or Mac diesels? even road graders? Very dis-similar products with entirely different purposes, entirely different life spans, different insurance rates.
    For fairness, try comparing with cars getting similar mileage and giving similar seating capacities?
    Fact is, U.S. Dollar losing PPP(Purchasing Price Parity) so fast as to cause gasoline prices to rise over the long haul, making higher economy of Prius and their kind. very desirable, making Mustang's gas guzzling potential very damaging to long term value regardless of initial price.

  9. This does not need to be a question of which car is better. My Plug in Prius is just fine for me. It works for a trip down the block to a trip across the state and does so with blue ribbon efficiency, comfort, practicality and no special procedures or operations. Other cars work well for other people.

    But a car which requires no compromise and which does its job dependably and well is one which deserves consideration by anyone.

    What makes this car unique is that I can "fuel it" in my garage and as near as I can calculate, the cost for the electricity I add is less than a penny per mile. So far this accounts for 41% of my driving according to the dash display.

    I like that.

  10. Thank you for the common sense comments. People love to attack one vehicle while advocationg another, but whatever works for each potential customer. I love my Volt but I think the PIP would be a great car for my wife, for example.

    In the end, all hybrid/EV purchases help the same goals and the fact that someone else chose a different model is great, IMHO.

    I track my costs to the penny. If recharging at peak rates, I pay about $.03/mile, but 99% of the time I charge only at off-peak. At $.04/kW, I pay about the same, about $.01/mile.

  11. perhaps $0.04/KWH not KW

  12. initial demand is something that Toyota has mastered over any other EV manufacturer. its been 18 months since the Leaf became available but we have people in the game from day one still waiting to receive theirs so like the author, i take initial sales figures to be primarily the manufacturer and not the car. Toyota simply has the supply/demand issues managed over the Volt, Leaf and anyone else for that matter.

Commenting is closed for old articles.

Get FREE Dealer Quotes

From dealers near you

Find Green Cars


© 2015 Green Car Reports. All Rights Reserved. Green Car Reports is published by High Gear Media. Send us feedback. Stock photography by izmo, Inc.