Hybrid and electric cars were the rage when gas prices where high. The grandfather of the category has been the Toyota (NYSE: TM) which recently fell on very hard times. Sales of the hybrid were off 26.7% to 11,027 in June and 25.2% to 67,405 for the first six months. Incentives on the Pruis have dropped to .9% for 72 months.
The Prius first came off the production line in 1997. Toyota has sold 3.7 million worldwide since then. Recently sales have been challenged by an army of other hybrids and the new found attraction of all electric cars like the Tesla (NASDAQ: TSLA) Model 3 which will be priced at $35,000 before government incentives, that could be several thousands of dollars more. That will bring the car to about the same price level as a well-outfitted Prius. Granted, the Tesla will not be available until 2017, but the company has several hundred thousands of orders.
Cramming three test cars into a nine-day period meant planning a long trip for the Prius, if I intended to use up a tank of gasoline. With a 500-plus-mile range, I looked for something at least three hours away. So the Sturgis Clan Priused all the way to Hyde Park, N.Y., and Franklin Roosevelt’s estate and presidential library, a fittingly liberal destination for such a vehicle (though it was his Republican cousin Theodore who gave us the FDR estate’s owners, the National Park Service).
Toyota made the cockpit far more inviting by dispatching the Jetsons-style almost-horizontal dashboard and joystick gear lever. The shifter now emerges more discreetly from underneath the HVAC/audio system and the dashboard looks more earthbound.