Its "days to turn" number - a measure of how long a car typically stays on a dealer's lot before being
delivered to a customer - is 10. The industry average is in the mid-60s. Among hybrid cars, the closest
any other comes is Toyota's own Camry Hybrid with 15 days, according to Edmunds.com.
This very success is why federal tax incentives for
) hybrids have been reduced. To give
American automakers a fighting chance, Congress wrote a phase-out provision into the tax credit rules.
As a given car company sold more hybrid vehicles, tax credits on its vehicles would diminish then, finally,
Already, Prius tax incentives have been cut to 25 percent of their original $3,150. By the end of this
month, there will be no federal tax credits at all for the Prius or any of Toyota's hybrid vehicles.
So far, though, the lack of tax credits hasn't seemed to hurt. Toyota hasn't had to pile on its own
incentives to make up for it. Incentive spending per car on the Prius is now $71, according to
Edmunds.com. That compares to $685 for the Ford Escape Hybrid and nearly $1,500 for the Nissan
Among industry experts, the most often cited reason for the Prius's continued success is, simply, that it
looks unlike any other car on the market. The Prius is instantly recognizable, even from a block away, as
a hybrid car.
For those who want to make a public statement about their desire to help the environment, that's an
important selling point. "Even with our other hybrids, you've got to squint to see the hybrid badge," said
Toyota spokesman Wade Hoyt.
But the standard take on the Prius's success - the idea that buyers just want to make a statement -
probably oversimplifies its remarkable appeal.
"There was the potential for this to be a flash in the pan, the car of the moment. It's not," said Jack
Nerad,Editorial Director for Kelley Blue Book and author of the Complete Idiot's Guide to Hybrid and
Alternative Fuel Vehicles.
The Prius is successful, most importantly, because it asks its buyers to sacrifice nothing while making a
statement. Prius drivers are not shoehorned into a cramped little car with no room for a family's weekend
luggage. And, while it won't be showing up your local drag strip this weekend, the Prius is quick enough to
keep up with most ordinary family cars.
Since it was designed from the wheels up as a hybrid vehicle, sacrifices were minimized. Since its body