Drive by Numbers - All about Prius C

Drive by Numbers - All about Prius C's Senior Analyst discusses the numbers that have caught her attention this week

 Jessica Caldwell, Senior Analyst I'm back in the office after last weeks' exciting trip to Germany. If you didn't see my numbers on Lamborghini sales and currywurst, check it out here. Even though I'm fighting jet lag and lingering effects of St. Patrick's Day revelry, I feel like I've stumbled across more interesting numbers this week than ever before. Wading through the clutter of these remarkable numbers (which will be subject of subsequent columns), one thing kept coming back to me — the Toyota Prius C. It's a car that whispered rather than shouted to capture our attention and a car that certainly had its fair share of headlines this week. If you haven't had enough yet, here is my numerical run-down on what we know about the Prius C.

I'm jumping on the bandwagon here because this is the number that caught everyone's attention. 1,201 made its splashy appearance in the Toyota press release as the number of Prius Cs that were sold in the first three days of its shelf life. The release also pointed out the Prius C sold more in three days than Chevrolet Volt or Nissan Leaf did in the entire month of February. Let's put aside the fact that the Prius C, Volt, and Leaf possess different technologies for a second and realize the release had moxie. It was bold and very un-Toyota. They are certainly a company that has struggled through the past few years and are fighting to reclaim the 17% US market share they once held in 2009.

So, in sales-terms how big is 1,201? It's pretty big...especially when talking about a 3-day sales rate. To illustrate this further, here is but a sampling of vehicles that couldn't sell 1,201 vehicles last month (Leaf and Volt are obviously included along with the 2012 North American Truck of the Year)

February 2012 Sales

Anything can have its 15 minutes of fame, so I wanted to look past the 3-days sales numbers to see if there were any shopping trends that would indicate staying power. I did, and the results were impressive. I took a look at consideration data, or in other words the way we measure marketing effectiveness, and the Prius C has shot to the front of the class. It's already the third most considered vehicle in the subcompact segment with 10% of those shoppers taking a look. This is pretty significant because awareness is generally low when a vehicle launches so the fact it came on so strong shows a lot of interest and market receptiveness. Even though not everyone checking out the vehicle is in-market, consideration is generally the first step toward purchase intent. And it's rare to see a new vehicle show so much steam out of the gate. To put it into further context, Honda CR-Z placed sixth in its inaugural week back in August 2010. And that was amongst a smaller pool of vehicles. So, how does the category stack up? Take a look for yourself:

Highest Consideration in Subcompact Segment

OK, folks, I've saved the best for last as this is what impressed me most. It's cross-shopping data. In layman terms, this shows how you are stacking up to your direct competition. After Toyota's flashy press release, I couldn't help but see how many Volt shoppers are now looking at Prius C. The number has blown up from the previous week — showing an increase of 339%. Of course, it's a percent of a percent but even a point increase has it going up 5.4 percentage points. What does this mean? Volt shoppers are noticing Prius C. And to be fair, so are Leaf shoppers. And a lot of other shoppers for that matter. It is clear Prius C is a good option for someone in need of an inexpensive, fuel efficient vehicle. And luckily for Toyota, there are a lot of those people out there right now. Price is clearly an issue as its popular amongst shoppers of other low cost hybrids - the Honda Insight and CR-Z. And for the most part, Prius C shoppers are looking less at the competition than the competition is looking at them. This is a good thing (if you're Toyota)....and here is the proof:

Prius C Shopping

Unlike my esteemed colleagues in Editorial, I don't get the opportunity to drive too many cars. I tend to spend a substantial amount of time with numbers and spreadsheets. That said, I did savor a rare opportunity to flee the coup and drive the Prius C. I was initially dismayed - I was anticipating remarkable fuel economy numbers, but never saw my indicator go above 48. However, judging from the comments made by my co-pilot, it had less to do with the car and more to do with my obsession with the gas pedal. What can I say? My daily driver is a 1980 Mercedes-Benz 240 diesel so the gas pedal is the only thing I know. I was curious (and clearly numbers obsessed), so I took a look at the driver logs to see what other people got in terms of fuel economy. Ouch! It looked like I was all alone in the sub-50 MPG club. And for that, I guess I owe the car an apology.

Prius C, It's not you, it's me.

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Jessica Caldwell is the Senior Director of Pricing & Industry Analysis for Follow @jessrcaldwell on Twitter.

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