Call for an Uber in London and you’ll likely get a driver turning up in a Prius – a car favoured for its fuel efficiency. Toyota’s hybrid vehicle has been a worldwide success story except in one place: China.
Sina Finance pointed out in a recent article that only one Prius was sold in China in December. Yes, one. Sina says that consumers are “lukewarm” on the vehicle, noting that the single car sold was the first to leave a Toyota forecourt since May. Citing Bloomberg Intelligence data, it also said Toyota sold just 76 Prius cars in the whole of last year, down from 700 the year before.
Auto analyst Wen Xuhui explains that the Prius does not conform to a design that Chinese consumers are comfortable with. Their familiarity is more with other Toyota models like the Camry and the Corolla – both of which they associate with high quality – and Wen adds that many Chinese consumers are smitten with larger SUVs too.
Making life tougher for the Prius is that Toyota now sells hybrid versions of the Camry and the Corolla in the Chinese market at a similar price to the Prius.
Indeed, Toyota sold 47,000 of the hybrid versions last year out of almost 72,076 hybrids it sold nationwide in 2016 (a record amount).
To reiterate: that’s about 72,000 Toyota hybrids, plus 76 of the Prius.
Another case, perhaps, of what works elsewhere, doesn’t always work in China.