206 is the number of Toyota Priuses sold by Beaver Toyota in 2008.
163 is the number of Toyota Priuses sold by Beaver Toyota in 2010.
" For a long time, the waiting list was even over a year long."—Beaver Toyota Sales Manager Buddy Espinoza on the Prius’ heyday
If recent sales trends don't reverse, the rest of the state may stop thinking of Santa Feans as Kombucha-chugging locavores with "coexist" stickers on their Priuses. Well, the Prius part, anyway.
Santa Feans bought 21 percent fewer of Toyota's flagship hybrid last year than they did in 2008, following a steady pattern of decline over the past three years (sales were 186 in 2009). The 2011 Prius gets approximately 50 miles to the gallon, but costs up to $34,500, plus $2,000-$3,000 if the battery needs replacement.
Hybrid versions of Ford's Escape and Fusion aren't faring well either—Chalmers Capitol Ford General Manager Scott Simkins says hybrid Fusions accounted for a little more than 7 percent of total Fusion sales last year, while Escape hybrids made up approximately 2 percent of total Escape sales.
"I would say, if you're looking at ecology and green technology, there's more cost-effective alternatives than hybrids," Simkins says, such as fuel-efficient regular gas-powered vehicles. Steve Gallegos, sales manager of Premier Motorcars, says diesel cars also are gaining in popularity.
The 2010 "limited full wheel drive" hybrid Escape costs approximately $6,745 more than the non-hybrid version, and the average gas mileage difference for city and highway driving is 8 miles per gallon. According to CNN Money, it takes about five years to recoup in gas savings the initial investment.
Forbes magazine last September reported an even steeper decline in hybrid sales nationwide, which it attributed to the economic downturn. Between August 2009 and August 2010, Prius and Honda Insight sales declined by 35 and more than 50 percent, respectively.
Green living can take a hit during down economic times, according to the Harvard Business Review. A 2009 article differentiates affordable actions, such as recycling, from ones it describes as "badging," or "pricey displays of…green credentials." The latter suffers in a down economy, but will recover post-recession, the article says.
Espinoza notes that, although Santa Feans buy Priuses more for the green effect than the gas savings, gas prices may play a role. When gas prices climb, he says, some people “start thinking, ‘You know what, I need something that gets 50 miles to the gallon rather than something that gets 10, 12, 15.’”