For 2012, Autoweek.com tracked the Top 12 vehicles that users of the site searched for during the course of the year.  The list is mostly chock full of vehicles that you'd expect general automotive enthusiasts to drool over.  For example, topping the list is the Ford Mustang and in third place in the Chevrolet Corvette.  This duo of gas-chugging coupes aren't exactly practical, nor are they known to be fuel efficient.

Oddly, Autoweek's loyal automotive enthusiasts ranked a vehicle in second place that we'd consider to be a fuel-miser: the Toyota Prius.  But this site (InsideEVs.com) isn't interested in the popularity of conventional hybrids, unless there's a tie to a vehicle that plugs in.

Topping the list is the number one pony: the Ford Mustang.

Topping the list is the number one pony: the Ford Mustang.

As we all know, the conventional Prius has a sibling that's capable of consuming electricity.  It's known as the Toyota Prius Plug-In Hybrid.  Before we discuss the importance of the Prius' Autoweek ranking, let's first turn to the site's brief overview.

"Not a favorite among our editorial staff, the Toyota Prius maintains an enviable reputation thanks to its long history of purported environmental consciousness. Its popularity has been so great the nameplate has expanded to become a family of cars including the Prius V wagon and the smaller and even more efficient Prius C."

Both the Chevy Volt and Nissan LEAF are absent from Autoweek's list, which would seem to indicate that plug-in vehicles aren't popular amongst general automotive enthusiasts, yet the conventional Prius placed near the top of the list.  Is the Prius, for lack of a better term, a gateway vehicle for those seeking extreme fuel economy?

If so, then Toyota should work to find a way to capitalize on this unexpectedly high level of interest in the conventional Prius and it would be wise to convince potential Prius liftback buyers that an even more fuel-efficient Prius exists.  Of course, that's the Prius Plug-In Hybrid.

As we see it right now, Toyota hasn't taken full advantage of the instant recognition of the Prius name.  If the automaker could find a way pitch its Prius Plug-In Hybrid to the enormous crowd of general automotive enthusiasts, then there's no doubt Toyota would instantly leap to the top of the sales chart in the plug-in segment.

We're not marketers, but there seems to be a definite opportunity here for Toyota to shoot past the plugged-in competition.