Toyota Doesn't Seek Hybrid Taxi Sales--Cabbies Just Love Them Anyway

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Toyota Camry Hybrid NYC Taxi [Photo: Flickr user gomattolson]

Toyota Camry Hybrid NYC Taxi [Photo: Flickr user gomattolson]

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Taken a taxi anywhere recently?

Nowadays, there's a pretty good chance that if you have, it's been a hybrid--low running costs and great reliability records are starting to make them popular with drivers, as gas prices creep ever upwards.

Toyota's Prius and Camry Hybrids are becoming a familiar feature in many fleets, but it isn't Toyota putting them there--fleets are simply buying them because they work well.

USA Today suggests that Toyota isn't even overly keen to see their hybrids making up the numbers in taxi fleets.

Jim Lentz, CEO of Toyota Motor Sales in the U.S, said last week at the Detroit Auto Show, "I hate to see Toyotas in taxi fleets but (it) does create an image for us."

Unlike the Big Three automakers, Toyota isn't doing large fleet deals to operators, but in cities like New York and L.A. they're becoming de rigeur for their good gas mileage and strong reliability.

After the last year's Sandy Superstorm caused gas shortages in the U.S. North East, hybrid taxis were in even greater demand--the more traditional V-8 Crown Vic taxis managing only 12 mpg in service, compared to the mid-thirties of a Ford Escape Hybrid--and potentially more, for a Prius.

Lentz says he's also surprised to see the Toyota Prius V wagon appearing in fleets--suggesting taxi operators have been buying them without any incentives.

Recent figures suggest hybrid taxi fleets are only set to increase, which is very good news for the likes of Toyota.

After all, even if Toyota isn't keen on the image--a sale is a sale.


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Comments (12)
  1. Not to mention that many Local and State governments are buying them... (which I think is wrong since those are taxpayer funded purchases. I would have been okay with it if Prius is build in the USA, but it is NOT)

  2. It is a little disappointing when the best way to stop sending "oil-dollars" overseas, is to send "hybrid-dollars" overseas.

    Maybe an American made LEAF is slightly better.

  3. Lay the blame on American automakers. The problem is that until the C-Max hybrid came along last year, American auto makers did not offer anything like the Prius for the past 10 years.

    So taxi companies and municipal governments looking for a 50mpg cab or government car with a reasonable amount of passenger and trunk space had no choice but to buy the Prius for the past 10 years.

  4. And the C-Max is more expensive while getting worse mileage. Lose-lose. And it's not because American labor is more expensive than Japanese labor!

  5. Forest and Chris,
    Two of the best posts I've seen on this site in many months. Thank you...please keep it up!

  6. @Forest: In NYC, where the largest cab fleet in the country operates, this happened only after the Taxi Commission incentivized (in various ways) adoption of hybrids. And the taxi owners fought them on that in court, because their preferred vehicle was the gas-guzzling Ford Crown Victoria for its simplicity and easy repairs.

    It wasn't until Ford ended production of the Crown Vic that the taxi fleet started to diversify beyond Ford Escape Hybrids, which have been the bulk of the non-Crown Vic taxi fleet for the last five years.

    In other cities, of course, conditions vary.

  7. The NYC city government has been using Prii as a government official car since the first-generation came out (2001). There simply wasn't any other practical alternative to the Prius for that role until U.S. automakers came out with their own hybrids many years later.

    The chief reason behind the NY taxi companies' suit against Mayor Bloomberg's hybrid taxi mandate is cost.. Taxi companies didn't want to shell out $27,000 for a brand-new hybrid (Escape, Altima, Camry or Prius) when they could spend just $3000 for a used Crown Vic police car. It's the typical penny-wise pound-foolish shortsightedness that became apparent in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, which I admit satisfaction to seeing. :-)

  8. You are off with your calculations of long term costs if you think governments are not smart for purchasing vehicles that will save them...and YOU...more $$ in the long run with lower fuel costs...and usually lower maintenance costs.

    Toyota will build the next gen USA Prius here...I think.

  9. Why does he hate to see toyota's in taxi fleets? The fact that so many cabbies use them was the reason I bought a Prius.

  10. Image. I agree with you that its not a bad image to see Prii as taxis but that fool at Toyota thinks its a bad image. I see the Prius hatch n Prius V really taking off as taxi vehicles in the next few years...lets hope Toyota will get smart n cut them some fleet deals.

  11. My understanding--and one reason I bought a 2012 Camry HV--is all Toyota Camrys are built in Georgetown, KY. And 50% of the parts used are made in USA. I believe Toyota quality is better than Ford, even though "Quality is job 1" at Ford...or has their mission statement changed(?) The 2013 Fusion hybrid MPG is unattainable according to independent professional drives such as Consumer Reports. Manufacturer mpg over-estimates have been enough to recently prompt EPA to consider requiring mpg tests on every car to protect consumers in their buying choices. Incidentally, I am achieving greater than Toyota's advertised mpg estimate with my CHV. However, unlike a majority of drivers, I observe the speed limit.

  12. Someone has been blowing smoke in his ear.
    In Canada TOYOTA actively promotes the purchase of Prius to taxi drivers. At vancouver airport it is rare to see a non prius taxi. The prius V with the 50% greater trunk space looks like it was designed to be a taxi.
    With the mild climate in Vancouver the taxis last longer than in toronto where the salt and snow rusts them out quickly.

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