Having almost hit rock bottom, the Prius hatch is expected to rise again, with an ambitious sale target aired.
AT least twice as many Prius hatch will be sold this year as last and, ideally, the rate could be seven times that meagre 2015 tally.
That’s an optimism aired by Toyota New Zealand as it expresses continued faith in a car that acknowledges has been steadily losing sales since 2009.
The generation four Prius has just been released and, although the outgoing equivalent achieved just 28 registrations last year, the Palmerston North distributor has again determined to launch with three versions, priced at $47,990, $49,990 and $54,990.
TNZ general manager of sales Steve Pragnell is adamant the new model will rebuild sales – although he has not provided detail about how he expects this to occur.
Asked what his 2016 volume prediction is, he told Motoring Network: “More than last year. Our original target is 50 but we would like to sell closer to 200.”
Last year’s count was potentially the second-lowest ever for the Prius hatch in the 13 years it has been here, a chart sent to Motoring Network by the distributor suggests, but the lower count – cited for 2013 – might not be a fair comparison as the car arrived late that year.
He reiterated that there is an ongoing commitment to selling the Prius here as its flagship hybrid – despite mainstream model hybrids eating into its market.
Prius sales peaked in New Zealand in 2009 with 422 sold. But it fell into a decline the next year with the launch of the Camry Hybrid.
While the combined penetration by Toyota and Lexus battery-assisted models has increased over the past five years, Prius penetration has steadily decreased, virtually halving year on year since 2010.
Data provided by TNZ suggests the only Prius to hold its ground has been the entry ‘C’ model. Otherwise consumer tastes have nonetheless swung to the hybrid versions of mainstream Toyota cars – Camry Hybrid, on the strength of being a fleet favourite, is now the strongest selling Toyota/Lexus battery-assisted car.
Prangnell has acknowledged that the Corolla Hybrid landing mid-year is likely to take advantage of that trend.
Even so, he says there is no plan to drop the hatch, citing that it is a flagship model.
“Not in the foreseeable future,” he said.
“Corolla Hybrid will probably sell more, just as Camry does. But Prius has an important flagship role.
“Prius has an important flagship role to play as we continue to adopt new technologies first in Prius …”
Asked if he imagined Prius might gain even greater sales traction than is forecast when it adopts plug-in recharging technology, which featured on the outgoing model (though not in the New Zealand market, where the type was only trialed but never sold), Prangnell replied: “… plug in will follow in due course. Plug in Prius will certainly increase sales.”
He said TNZ was not yet ready to discuss the launch date or marketing plan for the petrol-electric Corolla and suggested it was premature to discuss what options might avail with the C-HR small crossover that is showing at this week’s Geneva motor show.
“C-HR strategy is undecided.”
TNZ has also clarified a presentation slide from the Prius media pack. Headed ‘Toyota hybrid family and price range’, it appeared to show the Corolla placing in two versions, one at $31,990 and the other at $41,990. The pricing and positioning of the current Toyota hybrid models was also included.
TNZ spokesman Morgan Dilks said the slide was not suggestive of indicative pricing the hybrid Corolla.
“The Corolla price range … presented was the price variation across the existing Corolla Hatch range (not Corolla Hybrid).”