Are Ford’s Plug-in Hybrids Overtaking Toyota?

Yesterday, Ford Motor company issued a press release saying its two plug-in hybrids had for the first time overtaken Toyota in the plug-in hybrid segment.

Headline: “Ford C-MAX Energi, Fusion Energi Overtake Toyota in Plug-In Hybrid Sales”

 

Ford’s statement is true in one sense, but questionable in another. Namely, Ford pitted two plug-in hybrids against one Toyota plug-in hybrid in order to assert its market dominance.

Ford’s statement for its C-Max Energi (1,092 sold) and Fusion Energi (1,087 sold) came furthermore on the month in which Toyota’s Prius Plug-in Hybrid (2,095 sold) had its all-time best month.

The Prius PHEV was an uncontested winner, topping the sales chart for all U.S. plug-in electric and plug-in hybrid cars – even though Toyota only sells them in 15 states – and still it beat the Tesla Model S, Chevy Volt and Nissan Leaf.

Ford however, focused on its own progress, picked Toyota’s moment of glory to say it is the plug-in category winner because its two nationally available cars each selling half as many units had relatively good months, and added to more than the limited-availability Toyota.

That notwithstanding, Toyota’s Prius plug-in is still the leader for the year having singlehandedly sold 10,069 units during 2013 compared to the 9,814 combined total of the C-Max Energi (5,386 sold) and Fusion Energi (4,428 sold).

For this year, the only plug-in gas-electric car selling more than the Toyota is the Chevy Volt with 18,782.

You can decide what is accurate for yourself, and here is Ford’s lead-out statement:

DEARBORN, Mich., Nov. 4, 2013 – Ford Motor Company took over the No. 1 spot in plug-in hybrid vehicle sales of the Ford Fusion Energi and Ford C-MAX Energi in October, outpacing sales of the Toyota Prius plug-in hybrid vehicle.

Ford sold 2,179 Fusion Energi and C-MAX Energi vehicles last month, accounting for 34 percent of the total plug-in hybrid market. Toyota sold 2,095 units of its Prius plug-in hybrid vehicle.

It is Ford’s best month ever for plug-in hybrid sales, shattering the previous record of 1,508 vehicles sold in September, a 45 percent increase. Ford’s plug-in hybrid vehicles – Fusion Energi and C-MAX Energi – hit this sales milestone just one year after introduction of C-MAX Energi and less than a year since launch of Fusion Energi.

 

For anyone paying attention to Ford’s marketing since it began promoting the C-Max Energi and Fusion Energi – to put it benignly – Ford has been eager to demonstrate the viability of its products compared to Toyota’s products.

To Ford’s credit – and not to drive the point overly much – Ford is coming along strongly and does have very competitive products.

The C-Max Energi and Fusion Energi are new releases and Toyota – which recently cut its prices for the Prius PHEV based on the 800—pound gorilla of hybrids, the Liftback – appears to be demonstrating the huge advantage of that phenomenon marketers call “branding.”

Everyone knows what a Prius is and its fan base runs deep.

Competitively speaking, the Prius plug-in offers around 11-14 miles all-electric range compared to the two Ford’s (superior) 21 miles or so.

The Fords also offer a host of other benefits such as styling and cargo capacity advantages respectively.

Neither the Ford products nor Toyota product are hands-down winners in all points of comparison however, and the market is saying what it is saying at the moment.

Let’s briefly compare the Ford Energi model that’s been for sale longer – the Prius PHEV was launched in March 2012, and the C-Max Energi in October 2012: Respective year-over year progress indicates the C-Max Energi is up by a tremendous 3,640 percent whereas the more-established Prius is up by 4.6 percent. (It’s too soon for Y-O-Y Fusion Energi numbers.)

It is apparent that Ford is feeling its oats, and perhaps the need to get the message of its up-and coming plug-in hybrids is being felt (as strongly as it ever has).

For the record however, here are some spin-free facts:

• The Prius plug-in hybrid led all other individual plug-in models in October.

• In the category called “plug-in hybrid,” Ford’s 2,179 units sold in October exceeds Toyota’s 2,095.

• It took two Fords to beat one Toyota by 84 units

Beyond that, Ford did state further facts, and following is the remainder of its entire press release:

California continues to account for 38 percent of all Ford plug-in hybrid vehicle sales, but plug-ins are strengthening in the midwestern and eastern regions. New York, Boston, Detroit, Chicago, Washington, D.C. and Philadelphia combine to make up 32 percent of the C-MAX Energi market. Those same cities make up 34 percent of the market for Fusion Energi. New York alone comes close to unseating San Francisco as the second most popular market for Fusion Energi.

Fusion Energi sales in October doubled in New York, Philadelphia and Washington, D.C. from the previous month.

Plug-in hybrid sales for the industry are up 32 percent year-to-date. The industry sold 39,083 vehicles through October, compared to 29,526 vehicles in 2012. October plug-in hybrid sales came within 40 units of setting an all-time monthly record for the segment.

Through September, aggregate data collected through MyFord® Mobile show Ford plug-in hybrids are being driven about 203,000 electric miles a day, enough to drive around the earth nearly eight times, or more than 8,400 electric-only miles an hour. These numbers are rapidly increasing as Ford continues investing in infrastructure while features exclusive to Ford plug-ins help improve driving habits.

Through MyFord Mobile and other features such as SmartGauge® with EcoGuide, data show how driving habits evolve and how electric-only miles rapidly accumulate. After six months of vehicle ownership, nearly 30 percent of all trips are taken gas-free, compared to about 20 percent at the beginning of ownership.

 

The bottom line? (put benignly again)

The plug-in hybrid market is growing and Ford is serious about playing as big of a part of this as it can.

Its rate of growth is high, so it could become fully true some time not long from now that Ford can unequivocally state that it is the plug-in hybrid leader.