Toyota Boosting Prius Production By 50%
July Auto Sales Dashboard

Prius Sales Accelerate in July, Honda Hybrids Flat


Hybrids in the US posted their second strongest sales month of 2004 with 7,227 units, just shy of May’s record of 7,275. That total, however, is a bit deceptive.

Toyota’s Prius was the star in July, racking up a record 5,230 units. That represents an increase of 24% from the prior month, and a whopping 666.6% from the 657 units sold in July 2003.

Sales of the Honda Civic hybrid remain lower and somewhat flat, while the Insight is in decline. June 04 to July 04, total Honda hybrid sales increased only 7% from 1,863 to 1,997.

I expect that will not change for Honda until the hybrid Accord arrives this fall.

The July results reinforce Toyota’s dominance of the “hybrid” category— as broad as that definition might be. With new hybrid models arriving this fall it will be interesting to see if Toyota maintains its sales leadership and its thought leadership. Despite the incredible success of the Prius, it is still early in the development of this market. Yet manufacturers wanting to catch up must be much more aggressive (in a positive way) and focused in development, manufacturing and marketing than they appear to be to date.


Jamais Cascio

It's very interesting to see the difference between Honda and Toyota in this. It sometimes seems like Honda has been reluctant to advertise its hybrids, and the ads they do run seem lethargic (none of them seem to show the vehicle in motion, to my recollection). I see Prius ads everywhere in print, and Toyota's recent TV ads play up the mileage of their entire line.

But the bigger factor, in my view, is the design choice each company made. Honda decided to make their mainstream hybrid nearly indistinguishable from a "normal" Civic (there are a few visual cues, but they're relatively subtle). Toyota went with a physical design which some call ugly, but everyone recognizes. The Prius allows drivers to revel in the smug feeling that they get great mileage while the SUV drivers staring at them are feeling the gas price pinch. Honda Civic Hybrid drivers get (roughly) the same mileage, but don't get stared at.

Ironically, I think in the long run the Honda decision makes more sense, as the hybrid drivetrain (or derivatives thereof) will eventually be so widespread that a "look at me, I'm a hybrid" design will be the early 21st century equivalent of tailfins. But for now, Toyota gets it exactly right.

(Except for one thing -- why the hell did they put the vehicle dashboard information off to the side instead of in the driver's straight-on field of view? What an idiotic interface decision!) (And... ARRRRGH -- is there any way to insert linebreaks or paragraphs in comments?)


Hmm. I think I have the comment linebreak issue resolved...sorry about that.

On the design choices -- I hadn't thought about that, but I think you're right, both in the short term (distinct) and the long term (widespread). It will be interesting to see how it plays out as more hybrids hit the market.

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