Toyota Prius Wagon Sales in 10 Weeks Top GM Volt’s 2011 Total

 

By Alan Ohnsman – Jan 18, 2012

Toyota Motor Corp. (7203) scored a victory in 2011 as U.S. deliveries of its Prius v wagon in 10 weeks topped sales of General Motors Co. (GM)’s Chevrolet Volt plug-in hybrid that was available all year.

Toyota sold 8,399 of the hybrid wagon, which didn’t arrive at U.S. dealerships until the last week of October, said Carly Schaffner, a spokeswoman for the company. GM delivered 7,671 rechargeable Volts in 2011 and 7,997 in the model’s first 13 months on the market. The Japanese automaker hadn’t distinguished Prius v sales from those of the original one.

“Prius v is off to a great start,” Jim Lentz, president of Toyota’s U.S. sales unit, said in an e-mail this week. The hybrid wagon starts at $26,400, Toyota said on its website. The Volt starts at $39,145 and is eligible for as much as $7,500 in federal tax credits.

Toyota, the largest gasoline-electric auto seller, wants to deliver more than 220,000 vehicles bearing the Prius name this year to U.S. customers, a 60 percent increase from 2011. That’s to be fueled by a four-car “family” consisting of the original hatchback, the v, the Prius c subcompact arriving in March, and a plug-in Prius that goes about 15 miles on battery power.

GM missed its goal of selling 10,000 Volts last year. A slow production increase kept dealers for the Detroit-based company in short supply until December, and a federal investigation of three fires that occurred after Volt crash tests lowered demand for the car, according to Bandon, Oregon- based CNW Marketing Research Inc.

Powertrain Choices

Comparing the plug-in Volt with the hybrid wagon is “ridiculous,” said Rob Peterson, a GM spokesman.

“Consumers cross-shop vehicles with comparable technologies or functionality, not a new name plate,” Peterson said by e-mail. “Comparing Volt to Prius v is apples and oranges.”

The range of alternative-power autos available to U.S. drivers is mushrooming as manufacturers offer vehicles powered wholly or in part by electricity, bio-fuels, natural gas and even hydrogen. That number will jump this year with new offerings required to meet clean air rules in California.

Bloomberg News tracked sales of 37 such vehicles in 2011, up from only two in 2000. Offerings include the Prius, the Volt, Nissan Motor Co. (7201)’s Leaf and Honda Motor Co.’s FCX Clarity fuel- cell sedan leased in California.

Hybrid sales accounted for only 2.2 percent of U.S. auto sales last year, down from 2.4 percent in 2010, according to researcher LMC Automotive. The decline was a result of reduced production of the Prius, which accounts for half of all hybrid sales, after Japan’s natural disasters cut the supply of parts, said Lentz, who is based at Toyota’s U.S. sales office in Torrance, California.

Hybrids Slip

The March 2011 earthquake and tsunami temporarily halted Prius assembly in Japan, leaving U.S. dealers with little inventory of the car for months. Overall Prius sales fell 3.2 percent last year to 136,463.

Toyota dealers in the U.S. also sold 9,241 hybrid midsize Camry cars, 37 percent fewer than in 2010, according to Autodata Corp., and the Toyota City, Japan-based automaker said it delivered 14,381 Lexus CT200h gas-electric compact luxury wagons in the model’s first calendar year.

Nissan sold 9,674 Leaf all-electric cars in the U.S. last year, missing its target of 10,000 to 12,000. The company said production lost to the tsunami limited availability. The Leaf averages about 73 miles per charge, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

The Prius v wagon, larger and heavier than a standard Prius, averages 42 miles per gallon of gasoline in combined city and highway driving, compared with 50 mpg for the main version. The Volt, capable of going 35 miles on battery power, has two U.S. fuel-economy ratings: 94 mpg-equivalent when both its lithium-ion pack and gasoline engine are used, and a combined 37 mpg when powered solely by gasoline.

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Five Auto Trends that will Shake Up 2012

By Mark Phelan, USA TODAY and the Detroit Free Press

Mazda

A host of new features you may never have heard of — and certainly didn’t expect to see in mainstream cars and trucks — will be commonplace by the end of 2012.

New technologies and safety and fuel-economy concerns have accelerated automakers’ innovation.

Here’s some of what to watch for in 2012 and at the North American International Auto Show in a couple of weeks:

Stop-start
Also called auto stop, this shuts the engine off at traffic lights and stop signs and imperceptibly restarts it when you’re ready to go. “Imperceptible” is the key word. Auto stop can reduce fuel consumption significantly, but people won’t tolerate it if they notice the engine cycling on and off, or if the vehicle doesn’t start moving when they expect it to. The Mazda 3 already offers the system, which will show up on many more models in 2012.

Double-digit air bags
Front-seat knee air bags are one of the next big things. Cars ranging from the subcompact Chevrolet Sonic to the compact Buick Verano and midsize Toyota Camry added them in 2011, with more to come next year. Ten is the magic number for air bags in new cars, as thorax-protecting bags for the front and rear seats become common. Next up: inflatable shoulder belts a la the Ford Explorer and a center-mounted bag from General Motors that keeps front-seat occupants from knocking heads. Some automakers are even considering air bags to keep back-seat passengers from hitting the front seats.

The days when automakers believed safety systems don’t help sell cars are gone.

More voice-recognition
Your smartphone will make your next car better, thanks to new systems that will use it for navigation, to stream your favorite news, music and more. Now that Transportation Secretary and driver-distraction hardliner Ray LaHood has come out in favor of hands-free systems rather than a pointless and unenforceable prohibition of phones, automakers are free to continue to innovate. Buick, Cadillac, Chevrolet, Hyundai and Toyota all have slick new systems to make the phone an integral part of your car.

Simpler infotainment controls
Despite widespread complaints from customers and critics, Ford remains committed to the controversial MyFordTouch control layout. In its simplest form in the Focus, the system works fine. More elaborate versions used in the Explorer SUV eliminate the dials that control audio volume, radio station, temperature and fan speed. Ford says it fixed usability problems with better voice recognition, but skeptics say dials are simply the best way to do some things.

We’ll find out who’s right when Ford uses the system in some high-profile new models in 2012.

Smaller, more powerful engines
This is a golden age of engine development. Small engines with new technologies have power and fuel efficiency that were inconceivable a few years ago.

GM’s 2-liter four-cylinder turbocharged, direct-injection engine produces a whopping 270 horsepower and 295 pound-feet of torque. It would wipe the floor with a lot of old V-8s and rates 32 mpg on the highway in the Buick Regal GS, the year’s most surprising sport sedan. Ford created the catchy EcoBoost name for its turbo/DI engines and uses it on everything from the compact Focus to the big Explorer crossover SUV and F-150 pickup.

The Fiat-designed 1.4-liter four-cylinder engine Chrysler builds in Dundee, Mich., will graduate from the slow-selling Fiat 500 to the sportiest version of the new Dodge Dart compact sedan.

You’ll see lots more small engines with big performance numbers in 2012.

NADA: Top 3 Factors Why New Car Sales Will Increase in 2012

NADA economist predicts more than 13.9 million new car sales in 2012

Paul Taylor

Paul Taylor

McLEAN, Va. (Jan. 5, 2012) – As the U.S. economy continues to improve this year, Paul Taylor, chief economist of the National Automobile Dealers Association, predicts more than 13.9 million new cars and light trucks will be purchased or leased in 2012.

Taylor, who is forecasting sales of 13.945 million new cars and light trucks for 2012 in the U.S., cites three key factors for the increase:

 

(1)    Aging vehicles,
(2)    Affordable credit, and
(3)    Aggressive incentives.

 

A key factor that will drive new-vehicle sales in 2012, says Taylor, is pent-up demand in the marketplace caused by more consumers shopping out of necessity to replace their aging vehicles.

“With the age of cars and trucks on the road today at nearly 11 years, consumers can no longer delay making a purchase of a new or newer vehicle,” he said.

Another factor that is likely to result in higher auto sales this year is the availability of affordable credit from competing lending sources for auto loans.

“Interest rates on new car loans will remain historically low in 2012, due in part to policy decisions by the Federal Reserve Board to keep rates low and the U.S. economy growing,” Taylor added. “As a result, affordable credit will be widely available in 2012 with more automaker finance companies offering low-interest and interest-free loans for up to 60 months.”

Taylor notes that both domestic and international automakers will wage an aggressive battle to capture U.S. market share in 2012 by rebuilding a diverse selection of vehicle inventory at dealerships, ranging from cars and CUVs to truck-based SUVs. A decline in gasoline prices will also result in car buyers considering a wider range of vehicles in different segments, he added.

“Auto sales typically increase with the exposure given to new vehicles during the auto show season in the first quarter and beyond,” Taylor added. “Lower vehicle costs for car buyers through manufacturer incentives and rebates combined with low interest rates will support stronger sales in 2012. And higher prices on used vehicles mean higher trade-in prices when shopping for a new car or truck.”

Editor’s note: NADA Chief Economist Paul Taylor will be available for media interviews in Detroit at the SAA Annual Automotive Outlook Conference on Sunday, Jan. 8 and during media days at the North American International Auto Show on Monday, Jan. 9 and Tuesday, Jan. 10.