Number one selling car in America may drive wingnuts mad

Update 21 April ’12, too early AM: The comments below were so helpful I added a link to this piece on the DKos open science thread. Now, you’re all going to be marked as subversives

As the AOL piece linked below says, “we didn’t see this one coming.” According to them, the hottest selling car in America is …

                         Toyota Prius CMSRP: $18,950 – $23,230
                         Invoice: $18,003 – $21,625
                         Fuel Economy: 53 mpg City, 46 mpg Highway

Surprised? We are a little. While it is true that hybrid sales are tracking 35% or so higher in the first quarter of this year, compared with last year, we were still a little surprised to see the newest member of the Prius family selling so fast.

We wondered when Toyota first showed the Prius C if it was answering a true market need or niche. But people really like the smaller version of the most popular hybrid in the land.

Not sure why this would be surprising. It’s affordable, it gets fantastic mileage, and being a Toyota the Prius C is probably durable and reliable. Unless I come into an unexpected run of economic luck, I’m going to test drive this little car and see if it makes sense for my next vehicle. One of the few things that might hold me back is thinking about the technology learning curve that could be in the works, with everything from motors to batteries.

The wingnuts will hate it though, the Prius C makes Republican Jesus cry, even if they find some dig at US unions in there somewhere, because it’s no Canyanero.


  1. Pteryxx says

    About to crack 200,000 miles on my 2004 Prius, including multiple cross-country drives. *thumbsup*

  2. says

    I have a Chevy Volt and I love it. LOVE IT!

    It’s different than a Prius, so it will attract a different set of drivers, but I love going 3 weeks without buying gas.

  3. otrame says

    There is nothing unusual about a Toyota going 200,000 without major problems. The only one I ever had that had a bad problem turned out to be a recall. The part in question was past the warranty, but Toyota said it shouldn’t have been failing so soon and replaced it free.

    Now, it is true that with all the new tech in a Prius, it is good to hear that they are still that reliable.

  4. Pteryxx says

    Stephen: Nope, it did have the brakes go out last year (which was kind of a big deal with a Prius’s weird hydraulic-kinetic-recapturing brakes) but it was still only a few thousand to repair, and it’s been fine ever since.

  5. Johnny Vector says

    Sadly, a Prius will not work for me at all. I drive 3 miles to work, which means it will run the gas motor almost the entire way (at least previous models let it warm up like that). I think I need an all-electric, like the Volt.

  6. Usernames are stupid says

    One of the few things that might hold me back is thinking about the technology learning curve that could be in the works, with everything from motors to batteries.

    Huh? This is a consumer product, i.e., brain-damagedly-stupid easy.

    Some people (occasionally-*cough*) use valet parking, and if a valet who’s never driven a Prius can get it going in a few seconds†, you’ll have no issues.

    Now, I’m not in the same league as Pteryxx, but my 2002 Prius (OG snub-nose) is just about to hit 110,000. So far, I’ve had two major problems (YMMV, natch):

    1) The “alternator” died at around 50k; repaired under warranty

    2) One of the main wires to the hybrid batteries failed at around 70k-ish; the entire pack was replaced under warranty (so my batteries have “only 40k” on em!)

    The only problem I run into with any regularity is the MAF sensor keeps dying (I’m about to replace my third one, I think). It is about $60 a pop every time ($200 from the dealer‡), but dead simple to replace for anyone with screwdriver-ability. I’m probably doing it to myself because I have K&N filter instead of the stock paper thing. Meh.

    †Dunno if this is old school, but once the car is warmed up, she’ll shut down her gas motor when idle, so to prevent Valet Person Panic (“Mister, the car won’t start!”), I turn on the Max AC, which forces the engine to continue to run.

    ‡Let me tell you how much I HATE Toyota parts: Air Cabin Filter dealer price is $34, local chain autoparts store is $10. It is like that for everything, at least for the parts you can get elsewhere.

  7. Pteryxx says

    Seconding Usernames – I’ve got an independent repair guy who studied up on hybrid technology specifically so he could work on my Prius (mine being the index case; he’s got other hybrid customers now). Toyota dealerships jack up prices, like all dealerships; but independent shops do exist. Also, you CAN learn to do much of the basic work yourself – see consumer communities such as and there are also local networking groups who trade shop references and such.

    Also, I can attest that passengers and bystanders STILL freak to this day when a Prius goes into silent running mode. “Your car just stalled!” and “I didn’t hear you coming!” are popular.

  8. Aliasalpha says

    Hoping to be getting a new car in the next week or 2 & I’ll be pushing hard for a prius myself (assuming they fit someone 2 metres tall).

  9. Brenda says

    I still want a PT Cruiser converted by Left Coast Electric. (See for info if interested.)

    My preference is mostly ergonomic. Most of these efficient are too small and low for me and mine to use comfortably. A PT would be tall enough for my mother to get into it, and I could load groceries and such in the back without aggravating my disability. Of course, there’s also something to the idea of taking one fossil fuel car out of circulation.

    On the pittance I make, this is merely a dream, however. I’ll have to buy a winning lottery ticket.

  10. left0ver1under says

    Putting aside the obvious for a minute (i.e. electric cars are a good thing, NOT driving is better) what I find annoying is the unwillingness to import European cars with incredible mileage (which is mostly protectionism by Detroit). There are numerous cars sold in Europe which top 50mpg without “hypermiling”, and the links below are *years* old, not new models:

    Unfortunately, car companies and Americans are unwilling to the most basic thing when it comes to improving fuel economy: reduce car size and reduce power. The new Dodge Dart is being advertised as “low power” despite having 160bhp, while in Europe the Fiat Punto Abarth is considered sporty at 160. Most European cars getting over 50mpg have less than 90bhp.

    If personal cars were lighter (under 800kg) and slower (under 100bhp) they wouldn’t just cost less for fuel, they’d be less expensive to buy. You wouldn’t need airbags and other safety features if every car topped out at 90-100mph as they once did. People treat 150mph as “normal” the same way they treat obesity as normal.

  11. magistramarla says

    We love our 2008 Prius. We’ve only had one major repair, and that turned out to be something that was under warranty.
    We’re careful to get the maintenance work done on time, and we’ve replaced the tires. Otherwise, it never causes a problem.
    We spend $45-$60 per month on gas, and that’s in California!

    I’m amazed at how much cargo we can fit into that little car.
    I drive around with my hundred pound German Shepherd service dog on the back seat. When rain causes me to pick up my hubby from school, we can fit his bicycle and the dog in for the ride home.
    We often travel with my wheelchair, my dog and our luggage in the car.

    My only complaint is that I wish that the seats were more comfortable!

  12. sithrazer says

    My ’02 Honda gets somewhere around 50mpg city and I’d wager it pushes 60mpg highway (haven’t done enough highway driving with it to get solid numbers), and it’s got a carburetor.
    …and only 2 wheels. :p

    If it had an overdrive/highway gear I bet I could be getting nearly 70mpg highway. Stock transmission only has 4 gears, and top gear is shifted into at ~30mph.

  13. Richard Blaine says

    Test drove a Prius C yesterday. Surprisingly nice for an economy car, drove very smoothly. Hopefully it will be as reliable as its older, larger brother has been.

    One catch is that, like many imports, the car is sold in trim packages that make you pay for options you may not want. For example, I liked the “Smart Key” feature in the model 3, but have no use for the bundled Navigation, Entune, etc. Also, according to the salesman, the model 3 always arrives equipped with the nominally optional moonroof (+$850). So I’d have to pay about 2k$ more to get the one option I wanted.

    I’ve read that some dealers are padding the price (above MSRP) because of high demand. The dealer I visited had four on the lot, but had sold two of them that day. Just keep in mind that Toyota is the largest car manufacturer in the world. They will make another car tomorrow just like the one on the dealer’s lot today.

    I recommend that any car buyer spend some time on sites like,, or to get better prepared for the negotiation process. Skeptics will be interested in recent articles describing application of Game Theory to car purchasing. See, for example, the short YouTube by Bruce Bueno de Mesquita describing his method. It’s a little like the Prisoner Dilemma.

  14. says

    User, mainly I just wanted to add that link from TPM about the batteries. The tech learning curve is always a factor in any purchase, but it could also team up with Moore’s Law and keep me from ever buying a computer. So, you make a good point.

  15. wholething says

    I’ve driven a Honda Insight for 9 years and put 93K miles on it. At 60K miles, I drove from Ohio to Baltimore and back. Shortly after that I had to replace the battery pack under warranty. About 20K miles later, I had to go back to Baltimore, and had to replace the batteries again. The first time I thought it was just the lifetime of the batteries but the second time I realized how hard it was on them going over the Appalachians. Going up a mountain would drain them and going down the other side would charge them. Power cycling the batteries repeatedly like that cooks them.

    I fill the tank every 3 or 4 weeks. It’s not just a matter of buying less gasoline because when gas prices spike, I can usually wait until they come back down.

  16. Pteryxx says

    The first time I thought it was just the lifetime of the batteries but the second time I realized how hard it was on them going over the Appalachians. Going up a mountain would drain them and going down the other side would charge them. Power cycling the batteries repeatedly like that cooks them.

    This has truth. I should mention that a Prius cannot be towed like a gas car, because rolling the wheels will turn them into generators and overcharge the batteries, risking explosion. They have to be loaded onto flatbeds to be moved. I assume the same is true of any electric or hybrid car with regenerative braking.

    For what it’s worth, I haven’t had battery problems with mine on long drives, but being in Dallas I haven’t gone over many mountains. I’ve seen the battery max out while going down a mile-long, 15% grade in Pennsylvania, and all I could do was turn on the A/C and all the accessories to damp it.

  17. magistramarla says

    We drove our Prius to Tahoe and back last summer, and it was soon after that the warranty repair became necessary. My hubby noticed that the battery was over-generating on steep downgrades.
    We’ve decided that if we ever go back to Tahoe, we’ll rent a car for the occasion.
    I’m afraid of heights and I really don’t enjoy mountain roads, even as a passenger. I suppose that makes my Prius even better suited to me.

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