The Toyota Prius Prime is a far better car than its plug-in hybrid predecessor, and it seems likely to become one of the higher-volume plug-in electric cars on the U.S. market.
If, that is, Toyota's own dealers prove willing to sell it—or even find out that it exists.
After three separate complaints by readers in different areas of the U.S., we dug into how Toyota has communicated with its dealers on the 2017 Prius Prime.
The company has now told us numerous times that the Prius Prime will be available nationwide—unlike its predecessor, the 2012-2015 Toyota Prius Plug-In Hybrid.
That car, with its anemic 11-mile electric range (only 6 miles of it continuous), was limited to California and a handful of other markets in states that have adopted its emission laws.
According to Toyota's East Coast communciations manager Corey Proffitt:
The Prius Prime is available in all 50 states and deliveries began [in December] in all states. Initial deliveries were prioritized for [California and other] ZEV states based on customer demand, but allocation was balanced based on demand among all Toyota sales regions.
In other words, you can buy a Prius Prime from any Toyota dealer in the U.S.—and if the dealer tells you otherwise, you can show them this article.
Customers shouldn't have to argue with dealerships about whether a nationally marketed car is actually available, however.
And that's what happened to three separate readers last month.
On December 1, well after 781 Prius Primes were sold the previous month, one buyer walked into Dunning Toyota in Ann Arbor, Michigan.
"My Toyota dealer told me that they'd heard Toyota would not sell Prius Prime anywhere in the U.S. other than California and New York," that reader wrote.
"She said they were told not to expect any Primes in any foreseeable time frame."
Then, in late December, we received the following message from a buyer who'd inquired about the Prius Prime at a dealer in the Dallas area.
Here's what that dealer told him:
The Prius Prime will not be sold by Gulf States Toyota distributor in any of their five-state market. That covers Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Louisiana and Mississippi. [The company] will not stock their dealers or allow orders to be taken. Those orders already taken with deposits are canceled and the deposits are to be refunded.
Finally, a third reader wrote just last week: "When I asked about the Prius Prime at the Toyota dealer in Pueblo, Colorado, two salesmen solemnly assured me that it was only for sale in California."
"They gave me that 'Oh, sure' look when I told them that was not the case," he added.
In all three cases, what the dealer told the buyer was entirely wrong and simply untrue.