December 2006 Dashboard

in partnership with Polk

Hybrids Worldwide

"Expected 2006 global hybrid sales" based on vehicle registration trends through October 2006.

"Top 5 global hybrid markets" and "Top 5 US hybrid markets" based on vehicle registrations CYTD October 2006.

Mark Twain once quipped that the reports of his death had been greatly exaggerated. So too have the reports about waning hybrid demand. A few weeks ago, the Chicago Tribune published a widely-syndicated article suggesting that hybrid sales were slumping, just as automakers like Nissan and GM are readying new models for the marketplace. While the story raises some interesting issues, the suggestion that hybrids are dead is just plain wrong.

It’s true that hybrid sales have lagged somewhat this fall, a topic that has been noted on this dashboard. But sales of hybrids were back up in December, buoyed partly by rising sales across the automobile market. 22,625 hybrids were sold in December, 24% more than last month, and substantially more hybrids than were sold last December. So after a few slower months, hybrid sales seem to have rebounded.

Of course, current sales don’t really tell us much about what will happen in the future. According to the Tribune article, things may not look good. The article presents ominous data from CNW Market Research claiming that the number of car shoppers considering hybrids has fallen by more than half in the past year. To be sure, fewer people saying they are interested in hybrids can’t be great news. But just how much of an effect this has on hybrid sales remains to be seen. In the first eight months of 2006, CNW claimed that interest in hybrids was falling steadily, yet sales jumped 68% from January to August. Some of this increase is certainly due to seasonal variation in auto sales, but the number of people who say they are considering a hybrid doesn’t always match well with the number of people who actually buy one.

The real news about hybrids is the 2006 sales numbers. This year, hybrid sales grew almost 23% in an overall vehicle market that declined slightly. Much of this growth was due to the introduction of the Camry hybrid in April 2005, but even if we exclude new models, hybrid sales grew at a respectable 6.6%. Some critics may point out that sales of the most popular hybrid model, the Prius, were flat in 2006. In our view, the fact that a vehicle with a three-year-old design, inflexible pricing, and constrained availability continued to attract more than 100,000 buyers this year is a signal that the hybrid market is alive and well. In fact, looking across the field of hybrid models, just one (the Honda Accord Hybrid) saw a significant sales drop in 2006. No one can be sure what 2007 will bring, but we believe hybrid sales will be far healthier than many analysts predict.

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 2006 volumes based on sales-to-date.

Hybrids sold in the U.S. (January – December 2006): 252,636

U.S. hybrid sales for December 2006

Model Units vs. 11/06 vs. 12/05
Insight 3
50.0%
92.9%
Prius 9,291
16.0%
2.9%
Civic 2,408
9.1%
4.7%
Accord 363
16.7%
49.6%
Camry 4,005
29.2%
n/a
Highlander 2,354
41.2%
7.1%
RX400h 1,981
49.3%
8.8%
GS450h 252
43.2%
n/a
Escape 1,748
32.1%
24.6%
Mariner 220
36.6%
46.7%
All hybrids 22,625
23.7%
24.0%

U.S. hybrid 2006 monthly sales by make

Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun
Insight 59 72 79 110 92 77
Prius 7,654 6,547 7,922 8,234 8,103 9,696
Civic 3,165 1,780 2,232 3,087 2,890 2,601
Accord 351 783 581 614 520 396
Camry n/a n/a n/a 86 3,032 4,268
Highlander 2,263 2,631 2,987 3,768 3,755 2,705
RX400h 1,477 1,803 2,470 2,247 2,006 1,190
GS450h n/a n/a n/a 141 294 231
Escape 801 1,233 1,441 3,039 2,434 1,569
Mariner 97 108 149 381 428 315
Total 15,867 14,957 17,861 21,707 23,554 23,048
Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec 2006 Totals
Insight 91 109 19 9 2 3 722
Prius 11,114 11,177 10,492 8,733 8,008 9,291 106,971
Civic 2,673 3,411 2,508 2,288 2,208 2,408 31,251
Accord 504 499 389 287 311 363 5,598
Camry 5,023 4,977 4,044 2,806 3,100 4,005 31,341
Highlander 2,784 2,581 2,347 1,643 1,667 2,354 31,485
RX400h 1,220 1,514 1,687 1,239 1,327 1,981 20,161
GS450h 157 192 164 177 176 252 1,784
Escape 2,060 1,789 1,369 1,343 1,323 1,748 20,149
Mariner 423 351 282 259 161 220 3,174
Total 26,049 26,600 23,301 18,784 18,283 22,625 252,636

U.S. hybrid sales for December 2006 by manufacturer and model

United States Sales by Make

U.S. hybrid market yearly sales (1999 – 2006)

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 hybrids on their roads. For example, residents in the New York City area put over 9,000 new hybrids on the road this year. 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.

Monthly Update: So we’ve told you the states where hybrids are most popular. But how about the state where hybrid SUVs are most popular? Or the state where hybrids from the Big 3 get the best reception? Or what about the state where people like luxury hybrids best? In fact, the answer to all three of these questions is the nation’s capital: Washington, DC. In the first 10 months of 2006, buyers in the District of Columbia put 746 hybrids on the road. While that may not sound like a lot, it is when you consider that there are just over a half a million people living within the District (we left out the suburbs in this analysis). That puts DC just behind #1 California for the most hybrids per capita. And it seems that DC’s hybrid drivers like SUVs, perhaps since they offer more seating for bodyguards, aides, or groups of Congressional interns. DC buyers also show strong brand preferences: Ford and GM models sell well here, as do luxury hybrids from Lexus. One may signal patriotism and the other status—two messages that are always fashionable in the nation’s capital.

States with the Highest Hybrid Sales

Rank State Registered Hybrids*
1 California 56,466
2 Florida 10,751
3 Texas 10,656
4 New York 9,904
5 Virginia 9,112
6 Illinois 7,884
7 Pennsylvania 7,120
8 Washington 7,089
9 Massachusetts 6,218
10 New Jersey 5,954
11 Maryland 5,755
12 North Carolina 5,668
13 Ohio 4,976
14 Oregon 4,931
15 Arizona 4,627

*2006 Registrations (October 2006 YTD)

States where hybrids are most popular

Rank State Hybrids per 1000 residents*
1 California 1.56
2 District of Columbia 1.36
3 Oregon 1.35
4 Vermont 1.21
5 Virginia 1.20
6 Washington 1.13
7 New Hampshire 1.10
8 Hawaii 1.10
9 Maryland 1.03
10 Colorado 0.98
11 Massachusetts 0.97
12 Connecticut 0.84
13 Delaware 0.81
14 New Mexico 0.78
15 Arizona 0.78

*2006 Registrations (October 2006 YTD)

Metropolitan areas with the highest hybrid sales

Rank Metropolitan Area Hybrids*
1 Los Angeles 26,031
2 San Francisco 17,151
3 New York 11,953
4 Washington, DC 9,796
5 Boston 6,564
6 Chicago 6,341
7 Seattle 5,891
8 Philadelphia 5,762
9 San Diego 4,286
10 Sacramento, CA 3,996
11 Denver 3,977
12 Portland, OR 3,747
13 Phoenix 3,519
14 Dallas/Ft. Worth 3,086
15 Houston 3,057

*2006 Registrations (October 2006 YTD)

Metropolitan areas where hybrids are most popular

Rank Metropolitan Area Hybrids per 1000 Households*
1 Portland, OR 9.21
2 San Francisco, CA 7.28
3 Monterey, CA 5.83
4 Santa Barbara, CA 5.15
5 Los Angeles 4.70
6 Bend, OR 4.42
7 Washington, DC 4.35
8 Charlottesville, VA 4.23
9 San Diego 4.18
10 Eugene 3.76
11 Seattle 3.46
12 Honolulu 3.37
13 Eureka 3.15
14 Sacramento, CA 2.97
15 Madison, WI 2.91

*2006 Registrations (October 2006 YTD)

Looking Ahead

Americans purchased more than one-quarter of a million hybrid cars and trucks in 2006. So what will hybrid sales look like in 2007? Analysts’ forecasts vary widely, projecting sales growth as low as 19% and as high as 86%. We’re not sure which of those forecasts is the right one, but we’re optimistic about next year’s hybrid sales for two reasons:

Toyota is optimistic. At the moment at least, Toyota drives the hybrid market. Their models accounted for more than three-quarters of all hybrid sales in 2006. In an interview last month with Automotive News, Toyota President Katsuaki Watanabe estimated 2007 North American sales at 300,000 units, roughly a 50% increase from 2006. Market analysts (including us) can predict whatever sales number they want for next year, but when Toyota’s President provides sales guidance, it’s the real deal.

The number of hybrid offerings will expand dramatically. In the next 12 months, the number of vehicles offering hybrid powertrains will double (planned launches are shown in the table below.) The result will be more choice for consumers interested in buying hybrids. While some of the new vehicles (like the Mazda Tribute) are essentially just rebadged versions of existing hybrid models, other new models expand the hybrid footprint into new vehicle classes. Pay close attention to sales of the hybridized Chevy Tahoe, GMC Yukon, Cadillac Escalade, and Dodge Durango. Unlike previous mild-hybrid truck offerings, these four are true full-hybrids, employing the dual-mode hybrid system developed by the GM/DaimlerChrysler/BMW alliance. We have our doubts about how enthusiastic full-sized SUV buyers will be about hybrid technology. But a half a million Americans bought full-sized SUVs last year. Even if a modest fraction of them opted for a hybrid version, it could boost overall hybrid sales considerably.

Nissan Altima Early 2007
Chevrolet Malibu Mid 2007
Lexus 600h Mid 2007
Mazda Tribute Hybrid Mid 2007
Saturn Aura Green Line Mid 2007
GMC Yukon Late 2007
Chevrolet Tahoe Late 2007
Cadillac Escalade Late 2007
Dodge Durango Late 2007
Audi Q7 Late 2007


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