Prius Was California’s Most Popular Car in 2012

February 4th, 2013 by

by Zach McDonald of

Be it restaurant smoking bans or Pinot Noir, California has a way of setting trends that seem to inevitably spread throughout the country. For carmakers though, the importance of pleasing California drivers goes beyond their apparent influence on trends: not only is the state the U.S.’s largest auto market, it accounts for more than 10 percent of sales nationwide each year.

prius california

Now, for the first time, a hybrid has topped the list of the most popular new cars in the Golden State. In 2012, the Toyota Prius outsold the second-place Honda Civic line by more than 3,500 units, making it the most widely purchased platform in the state with a total of 60,688 vehicles sold.

The figures include sales of the Prius, Prius v, Prius c, and Prius plug-in hybrid, which combined to sell more than 236,000 vehicles in the United States last year—up 73 percent from 2011. Toyota also regained its lead as the world’s largest carmaker in 2012, thanks in part to robust hybrid sales. In Japan, the Prius and the Prius c were the two best selling vehicles last year, with the state of California ranking as the top market for Toyota hybrids outside of their home country.

What has led to the Prius’s meteoric rise in California? One contributing factor last year may have been gas prices, which hit record highs in the state thanks to refinery fires and other supply setbacks. But independent of the ups and downs of the oil market, Californians have always been a little greener in their driving preferences. The state was the first in the country to popularize the Prius, and has led all other states by leaps and bounds in hybrid and electric vehicle adoption.

Does this most recent feat mean that the Prius will overtake Ford’s F-150 pickup truck this year as the most popular vehicle in the U.S.? Probably not. At the very least though, it signals that hybrids are here to stay and should continue their brisk growth in popularity throughout the United States.

Posted in Hybrid Vehicles