Americans Don’t Want Priuses Because They Forgot That Gas Prices Can Change

Image courtesy of yoshiffles

Last year, we noted that low gas prices seem to be giving American car-buyers memory loss, as consumer preferences steered over to SUVs and trucks rather than the hybrid and compact cars that were popular a few years ago when gas prices topped $4 per gallon. Now it’s causing actual problems for Toyota, maker of what were the most popular hybrids… eight years ago.

The Wall Street Journal notes that car dealers in California are seeing customers literally trade their hybrids in for SUVs. While gas mileage has improved across the board for vehicles, Americans are thinking in terms of gas prices now, not what might happen in a few years.

“There is a direct correlation in the price of gasoline and the interest of consumers in hybrids,” the head of the California New Car Dealers Association told the WSJ.

When does highway mileage of 30 MPG, like Toyota’s gas-only small SUV the RAV4 has, become an unbearable expense? Not yet, apparently. Toyota reports that Prius sales are down 26%.

That means great news if you’re looking for a deal on a new or new-ish used car, though, as long as you’re interested in a hybrid. Other manufacturers with hybrid cars that used to be hot sellers report similar difficulties… and hot SUV and truck sales.

This is sort of a uniquely American problem, though. In Toyota’s home country of Japan, the Prius is still a top seller. It also happens that gas costs about $4.50 per gallon in Japan due to higher taxes, and that’s the case in most other industrialized countries.

Toyota’s Prius Pays Price for Cheap Gasoline [Wall Street Journal]