August 2008 Dashboard: Undersupply and Discouraged Buyers

in partnership with Polk

Hybrids Worldwide

"Top 5 global hybrid markets" based on vehicle registrations CYTD June 2008.

and "Top 5 US hybrid markets" based on vehicle registrations CYTD June 2008.

The auto market’s gloom continued last month, although August brought slightly higher overall sales than July. In total, 1.25 million cars and trucks left dealerships in August, a 10 percent increase over the previous month but down 15 percent from August 2007. Car sales were buoyed somewhat by heavy incentives, including fire-sale prices at GM dealerships as “Employee Discount for Everyone” returned after a three-year hiatus. In general, the deals were best on the least fuel-efficient vehicles—although some automakers also put cash on the hood of their hybrid models, including the Nissan Altima Hybrid and GMC Yukon Hybrid.

While great deals on conventional vehicles pushed sales up, hybrid sales fell. In August, 26,045 hybrids were sold, accounting for just above 2 percent of all new vehicles. A $0.25/gallon drop in average gas prices during the month may have been a factor, but the main issue continued to be availability of the most popular hybrid models. With inventories of the Prius and Camry Hybrid largely exhausted, Toyota has been unable to respond to heightened consumer demand for high-efficiency vehicles. As a result, sales of both models still remain below last year’s levels, and thin inventories seem likely to continue for the next several months.

Undersupply, lackluster growth, and discouraged buyers will be the themes of the hybrid market this fall. New models, including the Chevrolet Silverado Hybrid and Ford Fusion Hybrid, will enter the market, but sales of these models will be modest in the near term. Things will really get interesting next spring when new models from Honda and Toyota come on the scene. Honda offered a preview last week of its new hybrid vehicle, a second-generation Honda Insight that will offer Prius-like styling and fuel economy at a lower cost. The Insight’s launch is planned for April 2009, roughly the same time that Toyota plans to put its next-generation Prius in dealerships. Both vehicles are planned as high-volume models, each selling more than 100,000 units annually in the United States. Both are also the first of several new hybrid model launches for the two automakers. If high gas prices and consumer interest in fuel economy persist, the new Insight and next-generation Prius will lead a wave of growth for hybrid vehicles in the United States. In the meantime, we can only watch today’s lackluster hybrid sales and wonder what the market might have looked like if those two models had been available for this year’s gas price spikes.

US Sales

Our information is based on hybrid sales as reported by the manufacturers. For each model, this month’s sales are shown compared to sales in the previous month and at the same time last year. We also examine hybrid market share by model and manufacturer. The historical sales graph for top-selling hybrid models shows estimated 2008 volumes based on sales-to-date.

Hybrids sold in the U.S. (August 2008): 26,045

US hybrid sales for August 2008

Model Units vs. last month vs. August 2007 CYTD vs. CYTD 2007
Prius 13,463 -8.9% -4.2% 119,688 -4.0%
Camry 3,456 30.7% -19.3% 34,450 -6.1%
Highlander 1,277 -10.5% 224.6% 15,651 -1.5%
RX400h 1,277 -11.3% 9.0% 11,754 4.8%
LS600hL 71 -14.5% -73.4% 791 n/a
GS450h 35 -12.5% -73.1% 534 -57.8%
Civic 3,105 -9.7% 47.7% 25,577 16.2%
Accord 2 -33.3% -99.3% 196 -92.4%
Escape 1,155 14.2% -24.8% 12,294 -14.5%
Mariner 183 -28.0% -38.4% 1,731 -30.7%
Yukon 267 85.4% n/a 1,252 n/a
Malibu 388 11.2% n/a 1,032 n/a
Vue 417 15.2% 193.7% 1,604 -23.4%
Tahoe 530 155.9% n/a 1,805 n/a
Aura 26 -10.3% -74.8% 154 -73.0%
Altima 442 -38.2% -31.3% 6,732 48.0%
Escalade 1 n/a n/a 1 n/a
All hybrids 26,045 -3.1% 2.6% 233,797 -2.1%
All vehicles 1,249,976 10.0% -15.5% 9,800,103 -11.2%

U.S. hybrid sales for August 2008 by manufacturer and model

United States Sales by Make

U.S. hybrid market historical sales (1999 – 2007 with 2008 forecast)

United States Yearly Sales

Regional Data

Source: R. L. Polk & Co.

Curious where hybrid buyers live? We present the data in two ways. First, we list the 15 cities and states that boast the largest numbers of new hybrids on their roads within the past year. For example, residents in the New York City area put over 19,000 new hybrids on the road in 2007. Second, we adjust for population and look at hybrids per person (in states) or per household (in metro areas.) This lets us include cities like Portland, OR: a city that has fewer overall vehicles (and thus fewer hybrids) but has more hybrids per capita than anywhere else.

States with the Highest Hybrid Sales

Rank State New Hybrids*
1 California 46,821
2 New York 10,339
3 Florida 9,948
4 Texas 9,706
5 Illinois 7,218
6 Washington 6,264
7 Virginia 6,255
8 Pennsylvania 5,928
9 Arizona 5,617
10 Massachusetts 5,403
11 New Jersey 5,351
12 Maryland 4,596
13 North Carolina 4,340
14 Ohio 4,212
15 Colorado 3,731

*Registrations CYTD June 2008

States where hybrids are most popular

Rank State New Hybrids per 1000 Residents*
1 California 1.296
2 District of Columbia 1.288
3 Oregon 1.004
4 Washington 0.996
5 Arizona 0.946
6 Vermont 0.918
7 Connecticut 0.909
8 New Hampshire 0.882
9 Massachusetts 0.844
10 Virginia 0.827
11 Maryland 0.821
12 Colorado 0.800
13 Nevada 0.779
14 Hawaii 0.711
15 New Mexico 0.662
US State Average 0.583

*Registrations CYTD June 2008

Metropolitan areas with the highest hybrid sales

Rank Metropolitan Area New Hybrids*
1 Los Angeles 20,870
2 San Francisco 12,951
3 New York 12,270
4 Washington, DC 6,563
5 Chicago 5,747
6 Boston 5,562
7 Seattle 5,159
8 Phoenix 4,812
9 Philadelphia 4,715
10 Sacramento 4,239
11 San Diego 4,144
12 Denver 3,293
13 Portland, OR 3,115
14 Minneapolis-St. Paul 3,065
15 Dallas-Ft. Worth 3,021

*Registrations CYTD June 2008

Metropolitan areas where hybrids are most popular

Rank Metropolitan Area New Hybrids per 1000 Households*
1 Portland, OR 7.653
2 San Francisco 5.498
3 Monterrey, CA 4.439
4 Santa Barbara, CA 4.365
5 San Diego 4.038
6 Los Angeles 3.770
7 Sacramento, CA 3.150
8 Charlottesville, VA 3.039
9 Seattle 3.031
10 Palm Springs, CA 2.992
11 Washington, DC 2.914
12 Phoenix 2.898
13 Helena, MT 2.596
14 Eureka, CA 2.485
15 Eugene, OR 2.399
  US Metro Area Average 1.292

*Registrations CYTD June 2008


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