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Prius No Longer The Darling Of Bay Area Hybrid Car Lovers, But A Facelift Might Help

BERKELEY (KCBS) -- Once upon a time, you had to get on a waiting list just to test drive a Prius at the Toyota dealer, in Berkeley. Not so, anymore. If sales are the bottom line, it looks like the darling of the Bay Area's hybrid crowd has lost its luster.

You could blame falling gas prices for the 11.5% decrease in sales in 2014 compared to the year before, but that wouldn't be the whole story.

"The current version is getting a little bit old," said John McElroy with Detroit-based "It has been in the marketplace for about 5 years now. Typically, car companies like to refresh the design of a car after four years."

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He adds, "Maybe we should be on the lookout for a new Prius, and that will get sales going."

But sales for pure electric cars and even plug-in hybrids and diesels are up, growing 33% faster than the rest of the car market.

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"Across the board, all of them, whether you're talking about the Nissan Leaf, the Tesla, the new BMW i3, even the Ford Fusion electric, the Fiat 500 electric… all the electrics as a group, sales were up."

McElroy points out the total car market was up 6%. The EV sector is growing 5 times faster than the overall market.

"In fact they (electric sales) were all up last month, when we saw gasoline prices coming down the most. So, it's not as if Americans are suddenly getting amnesia and running away from hybrids."

McElroy said even before the fall of gas prices there was new life in the once-ailing car market, due to the rebounding economy, and purchases that were put off in the depths of the recession.

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New Toyota Prius hybrid cars are on display at Marin Toyota. With U.S. gas prices at an average of $2 per gallon, sales of hybrid cars have slumped since April of last year. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

"The average car in the United States today is over eleven years old," he said. "We've never seen such a high average."

So, what's McElroy's advice to Toyota?

Get that new model Prius on the market, ASAP.

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