2010 Toyota Prius, the nation's bestselling hybrid vehicle

2010 Toyota Camry, the nation's bestselling sedan
The Prius' popularity continues to grow

Could the nation's best selling hybrid vehicle unseat the nation's best selling sedan?  The Toyota Camry has been atop U.S. sales charts for 11 of the past 12 years and has helped Toyota to become the world's largest automaker in terms of sales.  However, according to Jim Lentz, president-Toyota Motor Sales U.S.A. Inc., there's a very real threat to it, which may steal away its sales crown sometime in the next decade.  That threat is the Toyota Prius.

The Prius, the second mass-produced hybrid to be offered in the U.S. is currently in its third generation, with the 2010 model year.  Featuring a refined design, the vehicle sports incredible mileage for a gasoline-driven vehicle, offering 50+ mpg in typical driving.  DailyTech recently test drove the vehicle and was impressed not only by its fuel efficient performance, but also its improved acceleration and handling, thanks to numerous upgrades over the second generation including a bigger engine, aerodynamics improvements, and new brakes.

We weren't the only ones who were impressed, though.  In August alone, Toyota sold close to 19,000 Prius, and it's looking to ramp up production.  In the months since, it has continued to move units aggressively -- for example, last month it was in 10 place for vehicle sales by model, shipping approximately 13,500 units.  Unsurprisingly, the top car on the list was the Toyota Camry, though it was beat out in the light vehicle class by the Ford F-Series and the Chevy Silverado.

Mr. Lentz speaking to Ward's Auto commented, "I think long-term, Prius as a nameplate could even outsell Camry as a nameplate, into this next decade.  I think Prius will become just that much stronger."

He says that the demand for green cars will drive the Prius' ascension (this comment is slightly ironic given the car's less than green manufacturing process).  The car still has a ways to go, though -- to date 294,493 Camry units were delivered versus the Prius’ 118,290.  One problem is that the Prius, while in demand, is in short supply.  That should soon change, as Toyota plans on building the vehicle soon at the halted Blue Springs, MS plant, assuming the global economic recovery continues.

Mr. Lentz says that the reoccuring rumor that Toyota will turn to a line of multiple Prius-like vehicles is by no means a done deal, though he says it's his dream.  He says, though, that he's more than satisfied with the current model, which he says has done a good job warding off competitors like the Ford Fusion Hybrid and Honda Insight.

Despite the lower price of the Honda Insight, he says the Prius's superior technology (among other things the Prius gets a combined 50 mpg compared to 42 mpg for the Insight) has put it on top in sales.  He states, "Consumers buy on value and not necessarily price.  While it may be more expensive than competitors’ (hybrids, consumers) still see more value in the (Prius)."

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