How Did a Honda Bump the Toyota Prius as California’s Top Car?

2015 Honda Accord Sport Sedan
Source: Honda

Is the Toyota Prius suffering from cheap gas prices or has the current model become dated? Both factors probably affected Prius sales last year, even though the hybrid came close to being California’s top seller for the third straight year. Instead, the Honda Accord took the prize in 2014, besting Prius by a few hundred units. Here’s how Accord managed to beat Prius in the nation’s largest auto market.

Year of hybrid decline

Though Prius actually gained 2% in California sales last year, its 71,210 units were not enough to beat the Accord and its tally of 71,578 sales for 2014, according to IHS Automotive Data reported by the LA Times. Nationally, Prius sales dipped 11.5% compared to its 2013 numbers, which represented a trend for the segment Toyota’s star hybrid leads. Overall, hybrid sales including plug-in vehicles fell 9% in 2014, year over year, which certainly reflected the drop in gas prices.

While Prius sales remained flat, the Accord gained 17% in 2014 to become California’s most popular model. This movement represented an improvement on the national trend for Honda’s midsize sedan. Accord gained 6% overall in U.S. sales last year, making it the fifth-best seller in the country in its second year on the market as a redesigned model. By contrast, Prius has become an aging model that is due for replacement this year.

2016 Prius en route

Setting aside the drop in gas prices, Toyota cannot be expected to increase popularity for a car that is in need of a shakeup. In recent years, improvements in fuel economy throughout the auto industry — especially in top sellers like the Accord — have been joined by strong growth in the electric car market. Families with an interest in green cars may just as likely opt for a Chevy Volt with 38 miles of pure electric range as a Toyota Prius with 50 miles per gallon economy. Besides, consumers interested in a new Prius are likely waiting for the 2016 model.

2015 prius
Source: Toyota

Despite the updates for Prius C and Prius V for 2015, the family-leading Liftback will appear as a fully redesigned model for 2016. As is typical in models that are phasing out, consumers slow down in purchasing an outgoing model.

Also worth noting is how much the industry has changed around the Prius in recent years. The once-mighty economy of 50 miles per gallon pales slightly as several hybrids (including Accord) have topped 40 miles per gallon. Automakers have closed the wide gap Prius previously held, though the family continues dominating the hybrid market.

Toyota doesn’t plan to be in this position for long. Rumors have emerged of the 2016 Prius topping 55 miles per gallon, with a glimmer of hope for a stunning 60 miles per gallon. Along with the jump in economy should be changes in styling (never a Prius strong suit) and a possible shift to all-wheel drive, according to

Once the 2016 Prius arrives, midsize sedans like Accord will have a very hard time keeping the hybrid king in check out in the Golden State. For now, Honda’s press team should feel free to continue bragging about the accomplishment. California isn’t everything, but it is America’s biggest market and the one that points the way for the U.S. auto industry.

Source: Los Angeles Times