Remember this summer, when a new Toyota Prius hybrid would cost you $25,000 and your first-born? Well, the acknowledgment of a year-long recession and rock-bottom gas prices have turned demand for the most fuel-efficient car in the country upside down.
In an inventory search on Cars.com, we found 1,241 for sale within 500 miles of Chicago. That compares to just three Toyota Camry Hybrids in the same area and 124 Ford Escape Hybrids.
Now, our inventory only searches what’s advertised, but it’s still one indication of changing tastes. Last month, Toyota sold 8,660 Prius models, down from 16,737 in November 2007 and its lowest monthly sales figure in years. However, this summer’s highest total was also lower than last November, at 14,785 sales in July. That was during the height of the gas crisis, when Toyota didn’t have the capacity to build enough to meet demand.
Toyota sold 2,174 Camry Hybrids last month, but given inventory it looks like demand is higher for them despite smaller sales numbers. The only two Toyota models to see an uptick last month were the Sequoia and Lexus LX 570, which are two gigantic SUVs.
What does this mean? Does it say gas prices have turned buyers off the most well-known hybrid on the market? Are hybrid buyers more likely to wait out bad economic times to buy a new car than other shoppers? Or does it say that building hybrids doesn’t mean people will pick them over standard gas-powered vehicles that cost less?