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Toyota backs hybrid despite Prius sales running low on juice

By Barry Park, 23 Nov 2017 Car News

Toyota backs hybrid despite Prius sales running low on juice

The petrol-electric heroes of Toyota’s showroom are starting to struggle to attract buyers

TOYOTA says it remains committed to hybrid in Australia, despite speculation it is about to pull one version of its fuel-sipping Prius range out of one of the largest markets globally.

The car maker is believed to be about to pull the plug on the Prius V (below), a seven-seat petrol-electric hybrid model, from the US market in response to slow sales of the car. However, the model is expected to remain on sale here despite buyers largely bypassing the more versatile family car version of Toyota’s hybrid sub-brand.

The Prius V was launched in Australia in 2012 as a $35,990 range-topper for the petrol-electric hybrid range that also included the previous generation Prius, and the $24,040 Yaris-sized Toyota Prius C (below) .

However, sales of Toyota’s hybrid range have fallen from more than 3800 in 2013 to just over 1200 for the first 10 months of this year. However, when it comes to the slowest-selling Prius-badged car of 2017 year-to-date, it’s not the Prius V on 334 sales, it’s the $35,690 hybrid pin-up poster car, the Prius, on 242 sales.

“Prius V, and indeed the entire Prius family of vehicles will continue to play a vital role in changing consumer attitudes toward the clear benefits of Toyota’s hybrid technology,” Toyota Australia spokesman Aleks Krajcer told WhichCar.

“Since the inception of the nameplate 20 years ago, Toyota has sold 10 million Prius vehicles globally, and over 70,000 in Australia,” he said. “Hybrid technology will continue to play a vital role in our product offering, as we look to grow our current sales mix above 5 percent currently.”

Krajcer said by 2020, Toyota hoped to have eight hybrid vehicles in its range on its path to meeting its own goal of reducing emissions by 90 percent by 2050.

“The all-new Camry hybrid (above) is able to achieve a combined 4.2L/100km fuel consumption, something that is really unprecedented for a car of its size, and a sign of just how far the technology has advanced,” he said.

Also hurting the Prius range’s success is a hybrid version of the Camry, priced form $29,990 for the cheapest version and $40,990 for the range-topping version. Toyota claimed recently that the petrol-electric Camry was accounting for one in five of the mid-size sedan's sales in Australia. The Prius also has an enemy within: the $27,530 Corolla Hybrid.

The slow reception to the Prius, though, appears to have had no impact on Toyota’s plans to one day introduce the hydrogen fuel cell Mirai sedan to Australia – once the right refuelling infrastructure is put in place to support it. The Mirai takes hydrogen gas and combines it in a fuel cell with atmospheric oxygen, creating the electricity needed to drive an electric motor, and water.

“... Clearly that technology is in its nascent stages, but the ability to power a car with a renewable energy form, and with zero carbon emissions is a stunning breakthrough,” Krajcer said.

“A concerted and combined industry movement is needed for that technology to take off, with investment in refuelling infrastructure in regional and metro areas.”

Hybrid cars are struggling to find buyers in Australia, remaining relatively flat for passenger cars and down sharply for SUVs compared with the first 10 months of last year. To the end of October they have accounted for only one in every 100 new cars sold. Of the hybrid Prius line-up alone, Toyota accounts for one in every 12 sales in the largely petrol-electric segment.