Toyota Hybrids Pass 4 Million In Global Sales

If anyone doubted whether hybrid cars are here to stay or not, then look no further than Toyota’s latest global sales figures.

According to the car maker, hybrids this year accounted for 15 percent of their global vehicle sales. That’s 4 million units sold, as of April, since their introduction in Japan in 1997.

Toyota Prius 2010

image via Toyota

This is heartening news indeed and reflective of the fact that among the major automakers Toyota has really championed the hybrid.

The Toyota Prius was the first hybrid to really take hold in the U.S., in 2000. More than a decade on its status as the most iconic hybrid brand is undiminished: according to Toyota it accounts for half of all hybrids on the road in the U.S. with sales totaling 1.2 million units through April 2012.

Overall hybrid sales have been helped by the expansion of the Prius family in the last eight months (high fuel price could have something to do with the trend, too). Last November, the Prius v was introduced in to the market followed by Prius c and Prius Plug-in during the first quarter this year. In that time U.S sales for all models of the Prius reached 60,859 units.

However, before we get carried away with ourselves it’s important to put the Prius’ success in context. For a few years now, hybrid sales have been stalled at 2 to 3 percent of the U.S. market.

Last year, in particular was a bad year for sales in part, analysts believe, because two of the top three selling models of hybrids — the Prius and the Honda Insight — are made in Japan and the Japanese car industry was severely impacted by the spring 2011 tsunami (the third hybrid is the Korean-made Hyundai Sonata Hybrid). For the first seven months of 2011, hybrid sales in the U.S. represented just 2.06 percent of total car sales.

Paul Willis has been journalist for a decade. Starting out in Northern England, from where he hails, he worked as a reporter on regional papers before graduating to the cut-throat world of London print media. On the way he spent a year as a correspondent in East Africa, writing about election fraud, drought and an Ethiopian version of American Idol. Since moving to America three years ago he has worked as a freelancer, working for CNN.com and major newspapers in Britain, Australia and North America. He writes on subjects as diverse as travel, media ethics and human evolution. He lives in New York where, in spite of the car fumes and the sometimes eccentric driving habits of the yellow cabs, he rides his bike everywhere.

    • Design

      What happens to the batteries when they have to be replaced?

      • Pete

        Green Auto Blog did an excellent post on that earlier this year (http://green.autoblog.com/2012/01/05/replacing-prius-batteries-can-be-good-for-the-environment-and/). Key excerpt:

        “When a Prius battery pack reaches end of life, Toyota
        provides a UPS shipping container so the battery can be sent to a recycling
        center. For U.S. cars, that center is in California. The batteries are shorted
        out to prevent accidents with any remaining charge, then all of the components
        are disassembled. The plastic case is shredded and recycled. The electrolyte is
        decanted and the rare earth elements recovered. The nickel plates are sent to a
        smelter where they are used in making steel. All the components of the pack are
        recycled or reused, leaving nothing to go to the landfill. The same recycler is
        already equipped to deal with the lithium batteries found on the Chevy Volt, Nissan Leaf, and plug-in Prius.”

    • Sonata

      Wrong!!!
      The Sonata Hybrid is made in Korea!

      • Pete

        Sonata — You’re absolutely correct. Our apologies for the error, which has now been fixed.

        Pete Danko
        EarthTechling

    • Vascopolis

      I DON’T UNDERSTAND…

      Ecconomy? Your gasoline goes to zero and your electric bill skyrockets…
      Clean Air? Trade off (low) auto emmissions for massive coal fired, oil fired and atomic power plant emmissions and dangers which ZERO OUT ANY GAIN.
      Reduce depency on oild ??? NO WAY, instead of burning a gallon in the car, you burn a gallon at the power plant.

      AND, currently, as gas stations are prevalent, and charging stations are not, you “waste” electricity getting to a charging location out-of-the-way.

      So…………. WHY?