Prius Price Drop

September 19th, 2007 by Potato

I didn’t mention it when I first heard about it, but I figure now enough time has passed that I can slip in another (boring) post on hybrid cars. Toyota has decided to drop the price of the Prius in Canada, and increase the standard features list (notably, to include side airbags, something that was standard in the States last year, but part of a very pricey everything-including-the-kitchen-sink option package here). This is essentially to make buying a Prius for Canada in Canada a more appealing option. Last year, one could save nearly $10k (Canadian) by buying a Prius in the States and importing it, and that was after paying the import duties, etc. I haven’t run through a detailed comparison, but it looks like that savings is now about $4k with the lower price, and the word that the federal rebate will not be applied to imported cars. Worth looking into, still, but not quite as much of a no-brainer (how much would you pay to not have to deal with miles and Fahrenheit? Over the life of the car? The speedometer changes to metric, but nothing else does. At what point is the effort of flying down and driving back worth the savings?).

This will, of course, hurt the value of the cars on the used market a little bit, but that’s going to be coming for all cars in the Canadian market, as the stronger dollar makes getting a car in the States more appealing (especially a used one that’s run out its warranty, since the manufacturers can’t put up artificial trade barriers such as not honouring a cross-border warranty).

The Globe article mentions that the Prius’ success is due to the fact that it’s a “unique” hybrid — it stands out as a hybrid because there’s no gas-only Prius (whereas every other hybrid, such as the Civic, Accord, Highlander, Camry, Vue, and Escape share a body style with a conventional car). That may be part of it, but I really have to doubt that “image” plays anywhere near as much of a role as the media seems to be giving it. Instead, I think that the Prius is by far the most successful hybrid for its practical qualities. The Civic, Accord, and Camry are sedan bodies with the battery packs taking up 1/3 of the normal trunk space; they’re nicely sized cars in the passenger compartments, but have tiny, subcompact sized trunks, with no versatility (the Camry has a pass-through, but their seats don’t go down, which some people find handy) and I think that turns a lot of people off (I know it was the major deciding factor for me). The Escape isn’t selling much, but they’re still selling them as fast as they can make them — they just can’t make them very fast (and because the production is slow, they’re not available at all Ford dealerships). The Vue, simply, sucks. The Accord was schizophrenic, and never really marketed for its strengths (really, marketing it as a powerful Accord that gets the same mileage as the 4-cyl model really just makes me want to get the cheaper, bigger-trunked 4-cyl). The Civic and the Camry, while not making Prius numbers, aren’t doing all that badly, and I think that’s because they’re also reasonably practical in terms of fuel economy, price, and performance. The Prius, on the other hand, has the best fuel economy (though its margin over the Civic isn’t huge), and has the most storage of the cars (sure, it gets beaten by the SUVs, but then, they’re SUVs and don’t get the mileage of the Prius).

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