Pat yourselves on the back, world: in 16 years, the world's car buyers have snatched up some five million hybrid cars from Toyota and Lexus. Better yet, American Lexus/Toyota buyers account for about 40 percent of those sales.
The Toyota Prius slowly gained traction after its Japanese release in December of 1997, but American audiences weren't treated to the gas-electric car until a mid-cycle refresh in 2000. Toyota sold 5562 Prii in the model's first six months, but the Prius's breakout year was 2003, when the more-popular second-generation car was unveiled, showing off a new liftback shape.
Since 1997, Toyota's expanded its lineup of hybrid models to include Lexus cars and SUVs, and the current tally of American gas-electric models stands at 12, with the Lexus CT, ES, GS, LS, and RX hybrids, as well as the Toyota Prius and Prius Plug-In, Prius c, Prius v, Camry Hybrid, Avalon Hybrid, and Highlander Hybrid. With strength in numbers, it shouldn't surprise anyone that Toyota and Lexus have sold a combined 1,951,243 hybrids, about 40 percent of the company's international hybrid sales so far. Toyota says that its hybrid cars hold a 70-percent market share in the United States market, and that U.S.-market hybrids account for about 20 percent of yearly Toyota/Lexus international hybrid sales.
Toyota celebrated the feat with some large numbers: it claims that its hybrids have prevented 34 million fewer tons of carbon dioxide from being released into the atmosphere, and saved owners some three billion gallons of gas. Say what you will about the Prius, but that number alone is fairly impressive.
Where does Toyota go from here? Up, or so it would hope. Toyota is planning a hybrid blitz by introducing or releasing 18 new hybrids between now and the end of 2015, although it's unclear if that number includes already-announced or updated models like the Highlander Hybrid. Still, with more models on the market and buyers clearly familiar and comfortable with the concept of owning/driving a hybrid, it might not be out of the question for Toyota to reach its goal of hitting one million hybrid sales a year internationally, with one third of those sales coming from inside the US.