2000 Toyota Prius

2000 Toyota Prius

Yesterday, Ford made a big publicity splash about building its 100,000th hybrid vehicle. Today, in a not-so-subtle game of one-upsmanship, Toyota has spit out a press release touting the one million hybrids they've sold--in the United States alone.

The Toyota Prius is, of course, at the head of that total, representing 700,000 of the million. And of the 1.7 million hybrids Toyota has sold globally since 1997, a full 1.2 million are Priuses. The 2010 Toyota Prius, unveiled in January, will keep the total growing. 

Just to hammer home its dominance, the company helpfully points out that almost 75 percent of all the hybrids sold in the US over 10 years are from either Toyota or Lexus. Most of the rest are from Honda, with Ford in third place.

The Prius was the world's first production hybrid, and Toyota launched it in Japan in 1997. A mildly revised version came to the States in 2000, but Toyota expected it to sell no more than 12,000 units a year.

It was the second-generation Prius (2004-2009) that took off. Bigger, roomier, faster, and even more economical, it zoomed up the charts and became the third best-selling Toyota in 2005 (after the Camry and Corolla).

The company now offers six hybrids in the US. The Prius was followed by the Lexus RX400h (2005-2009) that is being replaced by the 2010 Lexus 450h sport utility. Within months, it was followed by the Toyota Highlander Hybrid.

Number Four was the Lexus GS450h in mid-2006, followed in July 2007 by the Lexus LS600h luxury sedan (and the second-generation Highlander Hybrid).

The sixth and final model will be the 2010 Lexus HS250h, that brand's first "dedicated hybrid" (meaning it shares no body panels with any non-hybrid model). That car will go on sale late this summer.

For the coup de grace, Toyota casually dropped a mention that it will introduce 10 new hybrid models globally by the end of 2012.

Ford's hybrids have been popular, and their 2010 Ford Fusion Hybrid has gotten good reviews. Ford just hasn't built very many of them compared to Toyota.

Oh well, at least Ford has one consolation: Through the end of March, buyers of its hybrids can still claim the full $3,400 tax credit. Toyota's credits expired once 60,000 taxpayers claimed them--and that was years ago.

2010 Toyota Prius

2010 Toyota Prius