Toyota Prius Prime Was U.S.’ #1 Selling Plug-In Hybrid In 2018


Gone are the days when the Chevy Volt led the plug-in hybrid pack.

The Honda Clarity PHEV may have been number one for December 2018, but the Toyota Prius Prime captured the overall win for the year.

This, despite the fact that Toyota doesn’t actively support plug-in vehicles.

The changing of the tide may well be tied to the death of the Chevy Volt, but even before that announcement, the Prius Prime was performing well on the sales side.

World’s Most Comprehensive Toyota Prius Prime Review

Let’s move on to those 2018 sales figures.

The Toyota Prius Prime placed number one among PHEVs with full-year sales of 27,595 units. The Honda Clarity was #2 for PHEVs at 18,602 sold in 2018. Meanwhile, the Volt placed third with sales of 18,306 for 2018.

If we add pure electric cars into the sales mix, only the Tesla Model 3 outsold the Prius Prime in 2018. It did so by a massive margin. For 2018, Model 3 sales hit 139,782 units. A landslide win for Tesla’s smallest electric car.

But still, a win on the plug-in hybrid side for Toyota is a win regardless. Perhaps now the automaker will consider jumping deeper into electric cars?

Categories: Sales, Toyota

Tags: ,

Leave a Reply

53 Comments on "Toyota Prius Prime Was U.S.’ #1 Selling Plug-In Hybrid In 2018"

newest oldest most voted

A Toyota Prius Prime with a 20 kWh battery pack would be much more competitive and the sales numbers would increase substantially.

Competitive with what? Doesn’t this article claim it’s number 1 already? Where would they put this new bigger battery?

More competitive with gasmobiles, of course. And more competitive with other PHEVs, not that that should be the primary goal.

The goal is to reduce the amount of gasoline burned by cars as much as possible, isn’t it? The longer the PHEV’s range, the less gas it will burn.

There is a point of diminishing returns and Volt-2 clearly proved it. Despite the increase in range from Volt-1, sales did not increase.

Sorry, correlation does not imply causation. The PiP is as lame as it gets regarding an “EV”.

Such a blatant attempt to spread misinformation… We all know there are other plug-in offerings with less efficient design. For example. Volt-2 guzzles electricity in comparison, neither motor nor heater are as efficient. Other offerings provide less power and don’t even include electric heat.

The balance Toyota delivered with Prius Prime is a key example of mass appeal. Later, a RAV4 could enter the mix to provide variety.

The PiP is lame. It has the most pathetic EV range of all plug-ins. No amount of Kellyanne Conway spinning is going to change these truths.

Nope. The sales are restricted by Toyota. The PHEV is cheaper than the standard prius. Sales would double if allowed. No point in bigger battery if you don’t want more volume

Yup. Read a long complaint just the other day about how hard it is to get the Prius Prime in Texas. Toyota is selling it almost entirely in CARB States only. It’s very difficult to buy one in other States, and you have to pay a premium if you do get one. That’s “premium” as in: Even higher than full MSRP price.

I often wonder who are the prime (couldn’t resist the pun) purchasers of the Prius Prime? I suspect it is almost entirely long time Toyota customers who are moving up from other Prius models. Are they actually attracting people from other brands?

And I have read stories of Toyota dealers trying to talk customers out of purchasing a Prime in favor of other models. I don’t understand why a dealer would turn down sales of their own brand. I can only assume that this trend will slowly dissipate and Prime sales will increase.

Do Not Read Between The Lines

People who would otherwise buy the HEV.
Prius+Plug-in sales continue to fall.

Global Toyota hybrid sales continue to rise. Toyota is the biggest and best car maker in the world and they also sold ~1.5 MILLION hybrids last year. The Prime is a mass production but not truly mass market plug-in. They will come with something better before long. Don’t cry for Toyota.

Their global sales continue to fall… with exceptionally big fails in Europe and China. They are neither the biggest nor the best OEM. These hybrids are worthless, a lexus exec complaint the transition is coming too fast, toyota emits some anti-EV ads because they are hurt so badly and are completely unable to transition to anything which makes sense. Not to mention their FCEV FAILED “sales”, these guys are being completely destroyed by newcomers like Tesla and transitioning incumbents like VW Group.

The best? That’s a laugh. They stopped innovating a long time ago, and it’s catching up with them.

Toyota is investing 1.5 trillion yen ($13.9 billion) in its battery business. So what if the hare is ahead early in the race? We’re still very much in the early-adopter stage.

If you look at market share in general, until basically Model 3, there has been no appreciable increase in the US for quite some time in the market share of total ‘electric’ vehicles (don’t hate me bro!) HEV + PHEV + BEV. Increase in the latter two has simply robbed from the first one. Click on California and you will see that from 2013 to the first part of Model 3 ramp the total of those 3 was effectively constant (varied up and down but no long term trend) and merely shifted. Click on nearly any other large population state (Florida, New York, Texas, Pennsylvania, pick any one you like) and with very few exceptions the overall sum trend is down and at best constant. The big peak being in 2013. Certain states like Colorado have an uptick of course but in general, it’s unfortunately a shift.

Wow! Awesome link Tom! InsideEVs should do an article about the interactive sales dashboard in your link.

The interactive media/graphs make it the most useful tool that I’ve seen to analyze the adoption of BEVs, PHEVs, HEVs, and FCEVs for the entire US, individual states, and geographic area. I really like that the interactive media allows you to look at either the number of sales per state or the market share per state. Since state populations vary so much, market share is the only way to easily compare EV adoption rates between states.

You’re also right that the total market share of BEV, PHEV, and HEV has remained relatively constant over the past couple of years with BEVs and PHEV canabalizing HEV market share.

The Prime is the cheapest Prius liftback, if you can use the full tax credit ($4,500?). It’s a freakin’ economy car. That’s why people buy it, when they’re also getting Toyota reliability at 5/5 much better than average reliability score from Consumer Reports. Killer plug-in for the price, but flawed to be a niche car until further improved, IMO, with only 4 seats and mediocre storage.

Amusements… The cheaper Prime is outsold by the more expensive Model 3, this means the cheaper Prime is worthless, very low value even for a cheaper price as compared to Model 3. Big FAILURE.

The sales of the regilar prius are dropping down pretty fast, the Prime sales can”t compensate this drop at all, and since the typical former prius owner is very far from a pickup or SUV type, toyota is leaking sales to more meaningful plugins of other brands – PHEV and BEV. It is the prius drive train which is lame, more efficient and at the same time more powerful plugins exist. Now they are desperate to prevent the free fall of the regular prius by adding AWD-e, 7 horse power on the rear axle, which speaks volumes how broken the overall concept is, again more powerful and at the same time more efficient plugins exist.

Basically, when people think hybrid, they think Toyota. No other car company has been able sway that. In addition, I think the Prius still gets the highest mileage when burning gas and people focus on that number more than AER, or MPGe.

But the Genius of the BMW i3 REX shows what the NextGen of Hybrid Technology should be.

Huh? The i3 REX gets only 35 MPG combined on Premium gasoline when driving on its range extender, and will go into turtle mode if you’re driving on the REX up a long incline and the battery gets depleted. Meanwhile, the Prius Prime gets 54 MPG combined on Regular gasoline after its battery is depleted.

The 2019 has 150 miles of real electric range.
When are you really going to need the gas engine, except for 151+ mile trips?
And it’s common, just join the Facebook group, for buyers to modify the car and put it in Hold Mode manually, and never getting into a low power mode at 3%.
That’s literally a problem no one has with an i3.

If you think that ‘everyone’ gets on an online message board or Facebook page to learn how to modify their BMW from its stock specifications so that they never encounter low power mode, I’m sure you are very wrong.

This is wrong. The REx engine is not allowed to work due to ZEV regulations. Btw, the European version works fine, no regulations. If the prius engine is subject to the same regulations the car won’t move at all… it is not able to join safely a highway with the engine, regardless.

Like I said, check the facebook forum.
Everyone “codes” the REX.

The demise of the Volt shows the lack of leadership at GM.
The problem is at the top.

Actually, same problem at Ford.

Who knew the “over promise, under deliver” would become even worse. GM has turned into an “all bark, no bite” automaker. They just sat on the Volt-1 approach, delivering a Volt-2 which appealed even more to enthusiasts. GM leadership simply wasn’t interested in leading mainstream change. Enjoying praise from conquest sales become the downfall, a dangerous trap to fall into when profitability is at stake. As we can now plainly see, Toyota was well aware of this problem… and even nailed the timing. Producing just 60,000 Prius PHV/Prime to prepare for higher volume rollout later while refining hybrid design in the meantime (most notably, the next-gen RAV4 hybrid) is looking to be a well played business move. MSRP of their plug-in hybrid system is low enough to compete directly with traditional vehicles. Ironically, the 2-year anniversary of Prime ownership for me will be on the very day GM’s tax-credit phaseout becomes a cold-hard reality… April 1. The heavy dependence on that $7,500 subsidy will be halved, making those challenging sales so difficult Volt won’t come up as a recommendation anymore. Toyota delivered a well-balance offering, one that seems to have too short of a range until you actually drive it… Read more »

Or, was the Volt cancelled because GM’s unit cost not actually that high, and they were NOT losing money on it, and now they’d have to reduce the price, and then explain years of lies about how this car was too expensive.

But, I believe GM’s reliability numbers on the Volt were just improving into the average range, and that would have meant more sales and incredible sales had they gotten into above average.

Then again the assembly line could only build 30,000 a year.
So, it was always only a CARB car.

Also, version 3 is being build in China now.

That’s some pretty random ranting, lol.

The Volt is cancelled because it was a niche vehicle given it’s place on the sport/luxury/space/price matrix. It would need to have its price dropped by at least $5k, and more as the tax credit phases out, to be competitive with it’s ICE competition. But where’s the upside in trying to push such a flawed, limited vehicle onto the mass market?

Naw, the Voltec implementations so far have all been too compromised. The Volt itself wasn’t going anywhere in it’s current form. The original Volt concept had a skate-board battery pack in the floor-board, too bad that GM didn’t put that into production instead of compromising so much to use the Cruze platform and the T-shaped battery inside the passenger/storage space.

The Volt was the best PHEV made to date. Most companies haven’t even equaled the 2011 Gen1 Volt yet.

But, people who buy green vehicles also tend to be anti-American. So it was limited to buyers capable of doing their own objective research and running cost calculations that included post-discount sale prices.

Clarity has probably passed it as best PHEV made to date from a mass appeal perspective.

I wonder what sales would have been if they advertised it in their regular line up, and once in a while on Sunday Football.

Then again, they could only build 30,000

The Prime is a sweet ride. Toyota reliability at 5/5 from Consumer Reports. It is, however, flawed, seriously flawed, from being a conversion of non-plug-in design, with only 4 seats, reduced storage area, and no spare tire. Great deal for the price, the cheapest liftback Prius available for those who can use the full tax credit, as long as you don’t need the full 5 seats and expansive storage capacity of the regular Prius liftback.

They need a clean-sheet design that puts a variable size traction battery into the floor-board of the next Prius liftback. Offer with 4WD, and a squared-off roof CUV version that’s lifted an inch or two and gives more storage and light towing. Full range of battery options from BEV, with 60 kwh battery, 15 kwh plug-in hybrid, or regular old gas-electric hybrid.

They have used less than 100,000 of their plug-in tax credits so far.

The efficiency comes from eliminating the weight of bigger battery, spare, and even the passenger in the 5th seat. Notice the prime has a maximum cargo capacity of 650 lbs. It is an engineering balancing act.
Not designed for everybody, but solid for what it is designed to do!

This is a big FAIL balancing, Model 3 is more powerful and more efficient at the same time, and offers better utility. The Prime is full of FAILED compromises.. a pile of patches on top of a lame platform.

$44,000 for the base price of Model 3 overwhelmingly confirmed it appealed to early-adopters taking advantage of the remaining $7,500 tax-credit. Comparing that low-hanging-fruit to ordinary consumers is an apple/orange situation, telling us virtually nothing about the upcoming market when more choices are available and the subsidies are used up.

It’s also f’in stupid looking. I expect to see the slimy, four eyed aliens from Zorax step out of them. Toyota makes ugly crap and dares you to buy something else. Sadly most people view cars as appliances, so Toyota repeatedly wins the bet. Why they spend the money to restyle their products baffles me. Nearly all Toyota buyers would still buy them even if they looked like 1992.

“It is, however, flawed, seriously flawed, from being a conversion of non-plug-in design, with only 4 seats, reduced storage area”.

I totally agree. I looked at the Prius Prime to replace my second Chevy Volt lease, but the continued lack of a real 5th seat and compromised cargo area turned me away from the prius prime.

I ended up getting a Kia Niro PHEV, and can’t understand why anyone would get a Prius Prime over a Niro PHEV. The Niro is much roomier, has one more mile electric range, has all the advanced safety features standard (AEB, LKA, ACC), is substantially quicker, and is less expensive than the prius prime. The Prius has a slightly better mpg rating, but in practice the longer electric range on the Niro usually negates that advantage.

Of course it’s almost impossible to find Niro Plug ins. The two largest kia dealers in my area don’t sell them, so I ended up buying mine while on vacation.

Niro doesn’t offer electric heating.

Prime comes standard with the industry’s most efficient heat-pump.

That’s a nice feature, but not a big selling point compared to more space, a 5th seat, better performance and advanced safety features … of course the Toyota reliability is a big selling point compared to Kia, which I wouldn’t want to own after it’s out of warranty.

PHEVS are polluting gasses. They have no part to play in sustainable future. We need zero emissions vehicles not more polluting gasser phevs.

Will the next generation of the Toyota Prius have three drivetrain options: Hybrid, Plug-In Hybrid and EV (just like the Hyundai Ionic)?

It would be nice to think so, but so far at least, Toyota is dead set against selling a BEV. Remember, this is the company that still tells people that fool cell cars are the future of automobiles! 🙄

That’s just your narrative, forced by only looking at the current market dominated by subsidized sales. We all know there are BEV choices in the works. The first to expect is a C-HR in China late this year.

Yeah, I’d hope they are working on a clean-sheet design for the 5th generation Prius lift-back that will convert to a BEV friendly architecture with battery in the floorboard. It makes a lot of sense.

Unfortunately if we look at the history of the Prius, Toyota has been on a 6-year product cycle. The 4th gen Prius liftback was introduced in 2015, which takes us to 2021 before we have the 5th generation.

Hopefully we’ll see at least one other plug-in built from this 4th gen platform, something akin to the Prius V, but maybe more CUV-like, which will bring better utility to the plug-in Prius line.

Here’s hoping the Honda Clarity PHEV pushes ahead of Prius Prime sales this year.

The 25 mile range of the Prime puts it rather far down on the list of EV ranges for PHEVs, and Toyota doesn’t seem to be interested in making a serious effort to improve the car.

Opinions of enthusiasts have proven a terrible gauge of mainstream priorities.

Prius sales, all models, continue to tank. The Prius V has already been killed off. I would not be surprised if Toyota just killed the Prius line for good. They keep grasping at straws to make something out of nothing, but I think they have run out of straws.

A narrative that omits Toyota’s ability to adapt to a changing market is running out of straws. RAV4 hybrid clearly shows an impressive move forward for offering choices.

Adapt = death of Prius