Toyota’s next Prius is unlikely to boost sagging hybrid market – Los Angeles Times

Posted: Saturday, July 11, 2015

The next Toyota Prius will arrive just as hybrids seem to be going out of fashion.

Set to debut this fall, the 2016 version of the groundbreaking green car leads a segment beset by falling gas prices and rising efficiency of conventional gasoline cars.

The fourth-generation Prius, analysts say, will have to be an extraordinary car to match its previous successes, and it’s unlikely to breathe new life into the flagging hybrid segment.

“The Prius, and hybrids in general, are in a very tough position right now,” said Kelley Blue Book senior analyst Karl Brauer.

In many ways, the Prius is the hybrid segment. Last year, Toyota sold 207,635 of the three combined Prius models, accounting for 42% of the hybrid market, according to IHS Automotive.

It’s by far the bestselling hybrid in U.S. history, having sold more than 1.8 million units since its debut as a 2001 model. It has, in recent years, often been the bestselling car of any kind in California.

But Prius sales this year are off 15.8% from 2014, according industry research firm Autodata Corp., a figure that mirrors falling sales for all hybrids.

Toyota has so far said little about the 2016 model, but the automaker has acknowledged a few key facts: It will be in dealerships by year end, come first in hatchback form only — with wagon and compact versions to arrive later — and look more like a conventional sedan.

It will drive more like one too, with sharper handling, according to Toyota. Fuel economy will improve by about 10%, to more than 55 mpg.

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