Toyota announced this week that the Prius, the first (and perhaps most beloved) mass-produced hybrid vehicle, passed 3 million sales worldwide in February. This isn't just a boon for Toyota; it's a big deal for the entire car industry.
In 2007, the Prius made headlines when it hit the one million vehicle sale mark just a decade after the vehicle went on sale in Japan, and six years after it hit car dealerships in the U.S. The next million vehicles took two years and eight months—and the million after that sold in just 18 months. The U.S. is now the most popular market.
Hybrid vehicle technology has finally hit the mainstream vehicle market, and Toyota isn't letting that go unnoticed. The company's latest press release extols its accomplishment:
Positioning response to environmental issues as a management priority and based on its belief that environment-considerate vehicles contribute only through their widespread use, TMC has endeavored to achieve the widespread use of hybrid vehicles. With global cumulative sales of its hybrid vehicles passing the 3-million mark, TMC believes that such vehicles are starting to enter the mainstream.
When the Prius was first unveiled, it was a novelty vehicle. Now, it's the standard that other hybrid automakers hold themselves up to—and it's still the most popular hybrid. Now, as Toyota prepares to roll out a Prius minivan, a smaller Prius for citygoers, and a plug-in Prius, the automaker is set to expand the Prius's appeal even further. If the Prius can do for the nascent plug-in electric vehicle market what it has done for the hybrid market, plug-ins might have a bright future.