Toyota Prius PHV Sets Sales Record In May – Now 2nd Best Selling EV In America

JUN 5 2014 BY JAY COLE 52

In April when the Prius PHV sold a yearly high 1,741 copies, many (including ourselves) chalked that result in part up to artificial demand for the Toyota in California surrounding the imminent exhaustion of the “green” stickler program for plug-in vehicles to gain access to HOV lanes.

Toyota Prius PHV "Sticker"

Toyota Prius PHV “Sticker”

Many people (and us) were wrong.

This month, while many other extended range plug-ins sold “ok”, the Prius PHV blew its old sales record out of the water by selling 2,692 copies.

A number that before this month’s extraordinary Nissan LEAF sales result would have made the Toyota the only plug-in car other than the Chevrolet Volt to achieve such a high level.

And all without the “green sticker”.

With May’s result, the Toyota PHV actually moved past the Chevrolet Volt to be the 2nd best selling plug-in for America for the first time with 7,729 units sold.

We reached out to Toyota to see if they had any thoughts on the success of the Prius PHV of late and to see if there was anything in particular driving sales.  Perhaps some sweetening of the deal in May?

“Prius PHV was up 282 percent last month, the Prius C was also up 17 percent. Incentives were up slightly in May month-over-month which is in line with the industry. It is not unusual for incentives to be up this time of year. “

Another big part of the reason for the Prius PHV’s success this year, past some extra cash on the hood in May, was an adjustment of the MSRP last fall – down as much as $2,010 to $4,620.

The Prius PHV now starts at $29,990; combine that with the federal credit worth $2,500 and the effective price is $27,490 … darn close to the base Prius hybrid’s price of $24,200, and cheaper than 2 of the 4 trim levels of the standard hybrid.

“Ultimately, the consumer will decide which technology is right for their lifestyle and we will continue to provide a portfolio of options, including plug-in hybrid electrics, pure electrics, fuel cells and hybrids as our core technology. The Prius PHV is part of that portfolio. “

We should note that Toyota wanted us to also stress their favorite new project as well, the fuel cell:

“However, Toyota sees a future in the fuel cell, which we intend to bring to market by 2015. A fuel cell is more efficient to operate than a gasoline engine, which means it requires less fuel to provide the same amount of power output. The fuel cell vehicle also produces zero emissions.  The only by-product is water vapor.

The target range is more than 300 miles (500 km) and only takes 3-5 minutes to fill up the hydrogen tank, similar to refueling your gasoline vehicle. Toyota has already doubled the power density of its proprietary fuel cell stack, achieving a total system output of 100 kW, while dramatically reducing the system’s size & cost. “

Toyota Prius "Family" Sales Through May 2014

Toyota Prius “Family” Sales Through May 2014

Breaking down both May and the year to date number, if you look at the Prius family of cars, the plug-in accounts for almost all the gains in May, and is the only member of the group with a year to date sale increase – a whopping 111%.

Toyota Continues To "Make It Rain" In June For The Prius PHV

Toyota Continues To “Make It Rain” In June For The Prius PHV

What to look for in sales for this month?

More of the same as Toyota is now offering $4,000 in bonus cash plus 0% financing for 60 months through July 7th.  National lease offers currently start at around $220/month (36m)

Meaning the effective price of the Prius PHV with the government credit included is $23,490; that’s less than the regular MSRP of the base Prius hybrid – although to be fair Toyota is also offering $1,000 of the standard hybrid model as well.

We’d still opt to pay the extra $290 bucks and get the plug-in … that seems more than reasonable!

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52 Comments on "Toyota Prius PHV Sets Sales Record In May – Now 2nd Best Selling EV In America"

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I still don’t really understand this.

Prius Plug-in: $29.9k – $2500 = $27.4k
Volt: $34.1k – $7500 = $26.6k

So the Volt is less expensive, with better performance, and way more electric range, including EV operation at top acceleration and top speed.

Maybe it’s the fifth seat? The brand loyalty? The GM recalls? Something else?

I, too have been perplexed by this. I think, to be honest, it is sheer ignorance on behalf of the consumer. I don’t think they realize the math you just showed. Also I think many of them are buying the plug-in because they are shopping for a Prius and see the Plug-in model at the dealership and the price is not much different, so why not?

Hi David,

I think ignorance or lack of knowledge of plug-in options is probably a big one too.

I also wonder if, to a lesser extent, some people don’t have the $7500 in tax liability to claim the full credit on the Volt. I say lesser extent because I think most people just don’t understand the tax credit structure enough to make this decision.

People look at the sticker price, the one they have to pay or finance. That stops them in their tracks. The net price after credits and rebates is hypothetical and requires extra effort and a bit of luck.

Also they see the Prius as a proven car with a set image, where as the Volt with all of the beating it have had from all directions, especially because it is a GM car, keeps people away.

Last but not least, people do not understand the Volt, the EPA sticker is still cryptic and the dealerships cannot and would not explain and demonstrate the technology nor try to promote and sell the Volt.

I am trying to encourage people to look at off-lease Volts as those seem to be the most affordable way to drive a plugin for someone who can have only one car and needs to drive it long distance, like a college student for example.

I think sometimes the MSRP is the headline we focus on the a lot…but almost 80% of cars not named Tesla are leased.

With the new MSRP, 0% financing, bonus cash,etc. the Prius PHV now leases significantly cheaper….that and I imagine lot of people are also still ‘shopping Prius’ and are likely being up-sold into the plug-in at the dealership level.

For example the thousands of people who have bought LEAFs in Georgia, the vast majority aren’t concerned at all with the sticker price, they just know they are getting the EV nearly free inside a lease when the state and federal credits are factored in.

3 major answers that were not given yet:

1. 5 seats. Regardless of how often you fill your car with 5 ppl or with 3 kids in back (in our case, whenever we all go somewhere), 4 seats is a major target-market limitation.

2. The Prius is a known and now-mainstream fixture, part of Toyota’s signature lineup. Getting a plug-in version is like trying out a new variation in the menu of a familiar and loved restaurant, i.e., a much shorter hop than the Volt.

3. GM doesn’t sell this car. After a fairly decent ending to 2013, they have given up completely on selling it (unless you count the self-defeating “dad, we are getting stuck in the middle of the desert!” ad). How come we only hear about the Volt being best-in-class used compact, only on insideevs instead of GM bragging about it from every possible podium? By contrast, it seems that Toyota (despite still not selling it everywhere) is pushing the PiP.

Regarding the 5 seats, when asked at the gm-volt forum what is the most important improvement they would like to see on the new Volt it was greater all-electric range. The fifth seat got 4 votes:

Otherwise you are correct.

Not a representative poll by any means. For one thing, the responders already have a Volt so naturally they don’t care for the 5th seat.

You need to go after people who have considered a Volt and ended up getting some other plug-in vehicle.

I considered buying Volt but bcoz of the 5th seat issue I ended buying Prius Plug-in

Hey, I mentioned 5th seat in my original post! 😉

Oh It’s you Assaf! Welcome back! You said, “How come we only hear about the Volt being best-in-class used compact, only on insideevs~” While the much quotedInSide Evs, powered by the rising Automotive Journalist Jay Cole has kept the acclimations fair and timely it is the rest of the Auo Industry Press that has showered the Chevy volt Extended Range Electric Vehicle with citations and awards. 1)In fact the Chevy Volt EREV is the most awarded abd cited car of all time! Link Goes To EV Dot Com As Hosted By Noted electric Fueled Vehicle Writer Ken Burridge. 2) The go to place for “Best Of…” ratings is US News and World Reports. This from Wikipedia- Since 2007, U.S. News has developed an innovative rankings system for new and used automobiles. The rankings span over 30 classes of cars, trucks, SUVs, minivans, wagons, and sports cars. Each automobile receives an overall score, as well as a performance, interior, and recommendation score to the nearest tenth on a 1-10 scale. Scores are based on the consensus opinion of America’s trusted automotive experts, as well as reliability and safety data.[28] U.S. News also produces annual “Best Cars for the Money” and… Read more »

They may also live in an apartment and only plan on plugging in rarely, so they want the higher CS mode MPG.

It also allows them get a green HOV sticker, which the regular Prius does not.

Can’t take or don’t know if they can take it, and most people know even less about taxes than they do about electricity. It is a complex situation and most people are looking at that nice beautiful red car in the commercial with the sticker price front and center – and not thinking much beyond that.

I bet it is not ignorance. PIP is way more practical for families than Volt can ever be with 4 seats and very low seats as well (my wife refused to even try sitting in a Volt).

Refusing to even try sitting in a vehicle doesn’t seem like a representative opinion, since the seat was never sampled.

I disagree vehemently about practicality, but I guess it all depends on circumstances. Seems like these days most families have 1-2 kids, and TWO vehicles. What’s a third seat truly needed for anyway?

We have my mother-in-law living with us, for eg. Moreover with 2 small kids a lot of times the non-driver needs to sit at the back to feed the baby etc. Yes, you need 5 seats with 2 kids.

With older kids you will always get another child that needs to be dropped off etc.

As to refusing to even sit – it is quite representative. Just look at the number of people buying SUVs because they can ride high. Volt’s seats make it impractical for anyone with knee issues.

BTW, I should say people who defend Volt and doesn’t understand its limitations are acting exactly like the clueless GM management. They refuse to understand customer needs and meet them. They’d rather blame low sales on “ignorant consumer” – very easy.

Hi evnow,

I started off on my first post on this page mentioning some of the limitations. I don’t think the car is by any means perfect. But if someone is after EV technology without range anxiety, I can’t see why anyone would buy a Prius plug-in over a Volt.

That said, I recognize there’s other reasons to buy a vehicle.

You mention people who defend the Volt without regard to its limitations, but similarly I feel the opposite often happens too.

The Volt’s back seats have less leg room than a Prius, okay, but the bucket seats make a trip far more comfortable than a Prius in the back, if you have sufficient leg room.

My point isn’t so much about my opinion or yours (both of which are valid), but statistically across the population I remain surprised that the Volt is not more popular.

Back to my original point, I think most of this is due to confusion over plug-in products, and what differentiates one from another.

> But if someone is after EV technology without range anxiety, I can’t see why anyone would buy a Prius plug-in over a Volt.

If over half of their trips are long ones (well over 100 miles), the the plugin Prius makes more sense. My sister has a RAV4 EV and a plugin Prius. The latter is used for short trips of 10 miles (daily round trip commute) and long trips of several hundred miles. Better mileage on long trips than the Volt.

There are definite downsides to the Volt compared to the Prius. Having both in our family, I know them well. The Prius has way more space, both for rear passengers and for cargo. It gets way better gas mileage once EV range is depleted, meaning that depending on your driving mix, you might use less gas overall. I don’t personally like the design of the Volt and the Prius is just more my style. Biggest downside of the PiP is no nationwide availability (I had to buy mine waaaaay out of state!). You already mentioned the Volt’s advantages so I won’t repeat them… it’s just a matter of choice for the well-informed buyer.

Agreed Matt.
We have both also.
My wife has a gen2 Prius and I have the Volt.
We use the Prius for longet runs down to Phx where she has to go alot.

For her it is about the room also. It definitely has more room in it. We have put a chest of drawers in the back.

Anyway. This is good about the piP. Anything that gets our fleet more electrified is good.

Personally I prefer my Volt though.

Hi Matt,

For the gas story, something like 90% of buyers would use less gas with the Volt given daily commuting habits.

You may still be correct though that people see the higher MPG and decide to go with it. That’s the problem with MPG now, it simply doesn’t tell the whole story.

Treating My Chevy Volt Extended Range Electric Vehicle like a power drill I take advantage of the over 1.5 billion 110V AC outlets in North America as well as over 47 240V AC EVSE Free Electric Fueled Vehicle Filling Stations in my area.

Over 30,000 miles in the last 26 months I have averaged over 620 Miles Per Gallon!
(Miles Driven Verses Gas Used)

I pay bout a buck a day for Electric Fuel and buy maybe 2 gallons of $4 gas a month!

This has allowed me to save over $5,000 in fuel the last 2 years, 2 months.

The base lease on the Chevy Volt EREV has dropped $130 a month since its inception.

Were I to lease now, saving $200 a month in fuel, with the base Chevy Volt Lease of $269 a month, 12,000 a year would result in a Net Cost to Drive of $69 a month or $18 a week! That is cheap driving!

Ps. Elon Musk call this formula, similar to my Net Cost to Drive, “The Effective Monthly Payment/True Cost To Own.”

Link Goes to my Volt EREV Stats-

ps- Try this in a Toyota Prius Plug-In! lol


Thomas J. Thias


All those things are against the Volt. 2011/2012 full of Fox News bashing. Hatered of GM – but people love to send their money overseas to Japan for this import. Loyalty to that action as they fail to realize how it impacts our economy. The Volt is a better EREV than the PiP. It is just not accepted enough by auto buyers or the dealers themselves who many have opted out of the Volt program. It is short-sighted of them bu t also an economic decision. Buying $10K in tools for the service area to be Volt certified – yet selling 3-4 a year for a few hundred profit on each is not smart.

The VOLT is obviously much better deal, cheaper and 4x more EV range. PHEV Prius is not an electric car by any means, with only 11 miles of range for full charge and that is in light mode and slow speeds. On some rare occasions due to time limited incentives from dealer or Toyota it could be possibly cheaper, but generally will be surely several thousand $$$ more expensive than regular Prius, because it is more expensive to manufacture and maintain. The only 11 miles of range in EV mode is a joke. Even if you charge every single day the total savings on that daily charge versus 50mpg regular Prius is 45 cents. Do the math. That is like 165$ per year in savings. WOW, what a waste of effort. 365 plugin and un-plugin, 365 unrolling and rolling back the cable or EVSE, paying and financing 2-3 thousand dollars more at the purchase time and at the end only 165$ in savings for the whole year? Really? That is the best Toyota can come up with? I think people buying the plugin Prius are 5 years behind. Toyota is 5 years behind. They know it and I bet they… Read more »

Heh, Sorry Jay, don’t hate me. Gotta say it!

The Toyota Prius PI is an 8-Track Tape!


This from the Toyota Prius PI Page foot notes. Foot note # 20

“[…]Prius Plug-in EV Mode is a blended operation of electricity and gas and can work under certain conditions up to 11 miles on a full charge.
Quick acceleration and braking, road and vehicle conditions, or climate control use may prevent or limit usage or effectiveness of EV Mode WHAT!

Ps. If I were forced to drive this thing i do not think that I would bother plugging in!


Thomas J. Thias


Brand awareness & longevity. Everyone knows about the Prius at this point. Lots of people have never heard about the Volt or don’t understand it.

But I agree, I think people are boneheads if they buy this instead of a Volt unless they happen to make a LOT of LONG distance drives (where the Prius high MPG shines).

I think GM needs to start calling the Volt a plug-in hybrid. Only the true EV nerds understand what “EREV” means, yet “plug-in hybrid” is self explanatory.

If the Volt were marketed as such, it could then be advertised as the plug-in hybrid with the longest EV range, fastest EV acceleration, highest EV top speed, etc. All the competitive benefits would become apparent.

Joe consumer doesn’t understand EREV and might be putting the Volt into the “one of these is not like the others” bucket and therefore ignored.

I can’t count the number of people who have come up to me with no clue as to how a Volt works but completely understand the EV=local, Gas=distance concept of the PiP and Energi cars.

GM marketing at its finest.

I have Rav4EV and Pip. Toyota name and reliability. I have a Sienna that has 140k miles and still runs like NEW.

I used to own a GM, and it ran great the first 3 years. But was a maintenance nightmare after that.

I’ll make the jump to Volt as soon as it has 6 seats and reliability past 10+ years.

Most reply’s to your question Clarkson are missing the obvious. PIP has the both the name “Toyota” and “Prius” positive name recognition, which is a great advantage. The Prius is a mainstream high volume seller now. It has been out long enough that people are comfortable with it, and the PIP compares to the regular Prius so closely in terms of price, interior and exterior appearance, how it drives, and performance that is less of a leap for consumers than it is to go to a LEAF or a Volt. When it comes to buying a car, many people are afraid to make a mistake, waste money or waste time. So many are cautious, and it is easier for these cautious people to go try out a PIP than a LEAF or a Volt. It is easier leap of faith for a consumer to consider shopping for a PIP. This is huge. Next, since the PIP is sold at the same place as the large volume sellers like the Camry and non plug in Prius, you have a plug in that is an easier car for salespeople to switch a buyer too compared to a LEAF or Volt. The similarities… Read more »

I heard that 1 out of 10 Prius hatchbacks sold were the plug-in model. If that is true, and I suspect it is, Toyota really should just get rid of the standard hybrid and make all Prius hatchbacks the plug-in model. I know I’ve said it before, but I like saying it.

I’m hopeful the next generation Prius will be completely PHEV, or at minimum offer a PHEV experience at least as good as Ford’s.


+1 – They should also stop the fuel cell talk. I had to laugh when Jay adds: “… that Toyota wanted us to also stress their favorite new project as well, the fuel cell”.

Really? You would think the successful sales of a plug-in would make them re-think, or at least not distract us to bother with, fuel cell vehicles when talking about the Prius PIH. I think we’ve killed this topic to death recently – but if they really did specifically ask you to mention it, it seems like a desperation move on their part.

Yes indeed. We were specifically talking/asking about the Prius PHV…and they double-backed to talk fuel cells.

As it is handy to have direct access to OEMs, we felt we should pass it along, (;

PIP doesn’t give them ZEV credits – FCVs will. It is also possible Toyota foolishly actually believes in them.

” we will continue to provide a portfolio of options, including plug-in hybrid electrics, pure electrics,”

And what pure electrics are they providing???

It really would be awesome if Toyota did that. But I just don’t see it happening.

Jay, did you ask if/when the PIP will be sold nationwide?

My 2013 Leaf S lease is up in Feb. and would put the Prius Plug-in on my shopping list if it got at least 20 miles on battery.

Here is hoping Toyota ups the range for 2015. Also selling it a little closer to DFW area than Maryland or AZ would help.

But with the talk of fuel cells I think Toyota must have made some deal with the devil ( big oil ).

I test drove a i3 with REX yesterday..very nice. The heavy re-gen braking is different from my Leaf but it does have cruise..nice Nissan added cruise to new 2015 S.

But i3 price is way high…like the REX idea..( Why does the Volt have such a big engine??)

Now looking to drive 2014 has great price.

Ugh. Stop buying these.

And if they resume giving out green stickers, they need to eliminate this from qualifying since it can’t even drive freeway speeds w/o firing up the gas engine.

I’m not a huge fan of the PiP.. But it seems I always have to wind up defending it. It can go 62 mph in EV mode. That is freeway speeds. I supposed it depends what freeway you are on and what time of day it is. Many freeways around my area have posted limits at 60 mph. Even those with 70 mph limits are often going much slower during rush hour.

You’ll have to accelerate like a baby for it to stay in EV mode up to that speed. And the freeway I drive on averages like 70mph when there is no traffic. And . . . it will goes less than 10 miles on electric at that speed.

It is just pathetic PHEV and we all know Toyota can do better.

This from the Toyota Prius PI Page foot notes. Foot note # 20

“[…]Prius Plug-in EV Mode is a blended operation of electricity and gas and can work under certain conditions up to 11 miles on a full charge.
Quick acceleration and braking, road and vehicle conditions, or climate control use may prevent or limit usage or effectiveness of EV Mode[…]” WHAT!

Ps. If I were forced to drive this thing i do not think that I would bother plugging in!


Thomas J. Thias


I don’t think you can say that ALL the May sales were without a Green Sticker. Dealers were allowed to get the stickers in advance before they they were getting low. Some of that old inventory was still hanging around in the beginning of May and I’m sure the smart dealers were asking a premium for those VINs that already had green stickers assigned. Toyota is giving $4,000 rebate and 0% 60 month financing, so the increase in sales is not that much of a surprise. The other offer is $5,300 lease cash (cap reduction) which results in an advertised $219/mo 36mo lease.

Correct CA green stickers still a factor thru June, and those PiP’s without stickers are very low cost in CA. I calculated 59% of PHEV were sold in CA for first quarter 2014. That’s up from 42% in 2013. Most people think PiP itself is even higher % CA sales. Looks to me the whole story on PHEV is huge California sales 1st Half 2014. I don’t think we have any Toyota data on % PiP sales in CA, but it’s gotta be big.

Indeed. Just saw a new post on Facebook stating that a SoCal dealer still has “a very good selection of these with HOV stickers already assigned to them”. So, Green Stickers are still a factor in sales in June 2014.

Just stepping back and looking at this – it looks rather ironic.

GM wanted to make the Volt as yet another attempt at competing with Prius. The result after 3 years is that PIP, created perhaps as a competitor to Volt, outsells Volt – and overall Prius remains untouchable to GM.

That’s quite a conclusion from only two months of the PIP outselling the Volt. What about the other 26 months of the PIP’s existence where the opposite has been true?

GM needs to make a SIMPLE commercial explaining how useful the PHEV architecture is. Show a calender of EV miles driven versus gas miles with all the EV miles in green. Show that a typical commuter will drive all their commute miles on electricity alone and those will be the majority of their miles. But show that it can do long gas miles on the weekend. Then show all those green electric miles turning into dollars that go into the pocket of the driver.

At least some people here might find this study interesting:

Tal, G. and Nicholas, M.A. (2014). Evaluating the Impact of High Occupancy Vehicle
(HOV) Lane Access on Plug-In Vehicles (PEVs) Purchasing and Usage in
California. Institute of Transportation Studies, University of California, Davis.

lol prius

An electric Prius would be awesome.