Toyota Says Discounts Are Necessary to Sell Its Plug-Ins

By · March 04, 2013

Toyota Prius Plug-in Hybrid

Toyota Division Group Vice President Bill Fay told Wards Auto that dealership incentives on the Toyota Prius Plug-in Hybrid will continue to be necessary for the company to keep pace with last year’s sales figures. The automaker sold 12,750 Prius PHEVs in 2012. “I don’t know that we have to necessarily go around and match everybody,” he said, referring to Toyota discounts intended to make plug-in cars competitive with gas-powered vehicles. “But we have to be sure we offer the same kind of value when they go to buy the vehicle.”

The 2013 Prius Plug-in Hybrid base model can be leased for $229 a month for 36 months until April 1, and lessees are eligible for $4,650 bonus cash, according to buyatoyota.com, the website of U.S. Toyota dealer associations.

The 2013 Prius plug-in starts at $32,000 for the base model. Trim levels with amenities such as LED headlights, navigation and heads-up display can push the price to $39,525.

According to Wards, dealer discounts on the 2012 Prius Plug-in Hybrid in Manhattan are as high as $6,500—and $4,650 off a 2013 model. Meanwhile, rebates are minimal for other non-plug Prius models, suggesting that dealerships are having an easier time selling those models. And in California, where solo drivers of the Prius PHEV are granted access to carpool lanes, cash rebates are more modest at about $1,650.

In December, we reported on deeply discounted prices on the Toyota RAV4 EV, which were in effect until January 7, 2013, according to buyatoyota.com. Though subject to limited availability (the RAV4 EV is only sold in California), Toyota RAV4 EV buyers received Toyota's $5,000 cash back offer with 0 percent financing. In addition, Toyota was offering $2,500 in loyalty cash. For example, in California, a RAV4 EV buyer who took advantage of all of the available discounts could purchase the all-electric crossover for as low as $32,300—That's a reduction of $17,500 off the RAV4 EV's base MSRP of $49,800.

Historically, Toyota executives have viewed conventional hybrids as the key mainstream offering for green car buyers, and have questioned the market viability of more expensive battery-powered vehicles with larger batteries.

The discounted prices anticipate what sticker prices will eventually be for plug-in vehicles, as battery costs are reduced and economies of scale are achieved. For now, the incentives are good news for today's car buyers wanting a car that uses grid-supplied electricity as fuel.

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