2010 Toyota Prius mileage tests
Nielsen, known for its television ratings, has moved increasingly into monitoring online conversations as a way to discern trends. Now they've turned their lens on hybrid cars and the brewing battle between the Toyota Prius and the new 2010 Honda Insight.
The company's data shows that when online discussions mention the Honda Insight, more than half the time (61 percent, to be exact) the Prius comes up as well. But the converse doesn't hold: When the Prius is mentioned, the Insight appears in the conversation less than half as often (27 percent).
This may not be surprising. The Prius has been on sale since 2000 and is the de facto definition of a hybrid car in the US. But Nielsen suggests it may pose a danger to the Insight's long-term prospects. The company comments on its blog:
If consumers regularly evaluate the Insight as a potential “Prius Killer,” the Insight may fail to emerge with a unique reputation, divorced from the Prius. The perception that the design of the Insight is too similar to that of the Prius highlights the belief that the Prius is the gold standard to which all other hybrids must aspire.
Public interest in the Insight is clearly increasing. Data in Hybrid Car Review shows that Google searches for the Honda Insight spiked sharply higher starting around April 20. And Nielsen notes that the Insight is outpacing the Prius and also the 2010 Ford Fusion Hybrid on Twitter.
Because the Insight is new and still something of an unknown quantity, it's not surprising that fewer of the people discussing it have definite plans to buy it. Nielsen says that 12 percent of Prius mentioners plan to buy one against only 7 percent for the Insight.
The first Insights started arriving at dealerships only about a month ago. Honda launched the car and its ad campaign in late March. As more cars arrive at dealers, the level of activity and purchase intent should continue to rise.
The question we can't yet answer: When the 2010 Toyota Prius hits dealers sometime late this month and the company cranks up the advertising, will searches for that car spike as well?
Hybrid auto buzz, Oct 2008 to Mar 2009, from Nielsen