February 2010 Dashboard: Toyota Woes Pull Down Hybrid Sales

Sales trends for hybrid cars rise and fall with the Toyota Prius. Toyota usually sells as many units of the quintessential hybrid as all other gas-electric cars combined. But February was far from a usual month. Multiple safety recalls throughout February, including one issued on the 2010 Prius, threw the company into full damage control and put doubts into the hearts of car shoppers. As a result, Prius sales in February fell 6.1 percent compared to the previous month. Discounts on three-year Prius leases probably prevented even further losses.

Hybrid Shopper

Hybrid shoppers took a wait-and-see approach in February, as Toyota dealt with safety recalls.

As severe as these problems were, they were not as bad as the global economic meltdown from a year ago. In fact, Prius sales in February are up 10.2 percent compared to one year ago. Overall hybrid sales matched the Prius sales trends: Year-to-date sales for the first two months of 2010 are up 7.2 percent for the Prius and 7.1 percent for all hybrids.

Largely as a result of Toyota’s woes, February 2010 is one of the rare months where the rate of hybrid sales lagged behind overall vehicle sales, which jumped by 11.1 percent compared to the 3.7 percent decline in hybrid sales. February’s percent market share—at 2.12 percent—is the lowest for hybrids since 1.97 percent in December 2008. Last year, hybrids nearly reached 3 percent of the new car market and are forecast to climb by approximately a single point of market share every year for the coming few years. It remains to be seen how long Toyota is embroiled in safety recalls and how that will affect hybrid sales.

Toyota misfortunes were good news for hybrid second-runners, Ford and Honda. Sales of the Honda Insight increased 54.1 percent compared to last month, and the Ford Fusion Hybrid jumped by 13.2 percent.

Short-term Numbers vs. Long-Term Global Trends

Premium hybrids from Lexus, Toyota’s luxury division, suffered as a result of recalls—as well as continued sluggishness in the economy. The most affordable luxury hybrid, the Lexus HS 250h, sold well in January, but fell by 42.9 percent in February. General Motors hybrids seems to be stuck in neutral, if not moving in reverse, as the company sells the remaining handful of discontinued Saturn hybrids still left on dealership lots. Gains from other GM hybrid models, such as the Cadillac Escalade Hybrid and Chevy Silverado Hybrid are inconsequential to the overall hybrid market, because production numbers are so low.

Other negative factors for hybrid sales include relatively low gas prices and big incentives offered on conventional cars.

On the global front, it’s a different story for Prius. The 2010 Toyota Prius retained its top spot in the overall Japanese market for the ninth straight month, posting 27,008 sales—more than three times the number sold in the US. Toyota also sold 538 Priuses in the UK in February, doubling sales from a year ago.

Despite the low number for Toyota and others, the global auto show circuit continues to put hybrids and electric-drive vehicles in the spotlight—with promises for big production increases in the coming years, especially as tougher regulations push automakers to higher fuel efficiency and reduced carbon emissions.

February 2010 Hybrid Car Sales Numbers

Hybrids sold in the US (February 2010): 16,530

US hybrid sales for February 2010

Model Units vs. last month vs. February 2009 CYTD vs. CYTD 2009
Prius 7,968 -6.1% 10.2% 16,452 7.2%
Insight 2,014 54.1% n/a 3,321 n/a
Fusion 1,235 13.2% n/a 2,326 n/a
Camry 1,011 16.6% -51.4% 1,878 -41.7%
RX450h 890 -12.4% -40.7% 1,906 -37.7%
HS 250h 712 -42.90% n/a 1,959 n/a
Escape 702 9.5% -40.1% 1,343 -30.2%
Altima 619 -41.5% 33.7% 1,678 51.6%
Civic 346 36.8% -74.6% 599 -75.4%
Highlander 339 -35.6% -64.5% 865 -55.4%
Escalade 146 180.8% 4.8% 198 -27.0%
Silverado 106 9.3% 126% 203 -275%
Yukon 86 17.8% -51.5% 159 -53.9%
Tahoe 83 -45.8% -73.7% 236 -61.6%
Milan 82 34.4% n/a 143 n/a
Mariner 80 8.1% -34.4% 154 -38.2%
Malibu 68 1.5% -65.5% 135 -60.5%
GS450h 22 -46.3% 0.0% 63 0.0%
LS600hL 15 66.7% -31.8% 24 -56.4
Vue 4 -71.4% -97.9% 18 -94.7%
Aura 2 -92.0% -91.3% 27 -35.7%
All hybrids 16,530 -3.7% 3.2% 33,687 7.1%
All vehicles 780,265 11.1% 13.1% 1,478,611 9.8%


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  • John (proud owner of a civic hybrid)

    Im glad Honda is doing better :)

  • Mikey

    Despite Prius being down, it doesn’t seem like the competition is really stealing away much of Prius’ customers. From anecdotal stories, it seems that people are still purchasing the Prius despite the recalsl and unintended acceleration issues.

  • PaulRivers

    For most of the other vehicles Toyota sells, like the Camry, if someone is nervous about buying one because of the recent problems they can easily buy a competitor that’s also a very nice car. For example, if you like the Camry you can buy the Hyundai Sonata, the Nissan Altima, the Ford Fusion…you might “prefer” a Camry, but they’re all very similar and interchangeable vehicles, and they get the same mileage (might lose 1mpg).

    But if you want a Prius – I think a lot of people (like myself) are still considering buying one because there’s no easily swappable alternative. The reviews of the Honda Insight have been *terrible*. There’s nothing else that’s interchangeable with the Prius – the Civic Hybrid is a sedan, not a hatchback, and it’s not nearly as roomy. The midsize sedan hybrids get worse mileage and are far less utilitarian than a hatchback (particularly because the hybrid battery usually blocks the rear seat passthrough).

    So people who want a Prius are stuck trying to decide whether to buy the Prius, or an entirely different vehicle with much worse mileage, which I think makes them much more hesitant to buy something else.

  • Shines

    I think Paul has the right perspective. The Prius is fuel efficient and design efficient. The hatchback design makes the most of interior space and flexibility and the most of external aerodynamics. People who want an “efficient” car – Prius covers it. Probably why Prius sales cover about half of all hybrids sold. I’d like one but it’s not in my budget : – (

  • risang : Hybrid car owner

    Hybrid technology, not yet able to defeat conventional technology. but in the future, I believe that conventional technology will be abandoned. hybrid car manufacturers will increasingly hard to compete with other producers. The most sophisticated and efficient who will win the market.

  • GR

    I think if Ford really wants to capitalize on the Prius’ market, they may have to consider a Ford Fusion wagon/hatchback variation.

    “Green Car of the Year” credibility + the roominess of a Prius? Sounds like a game changer to me.

  • Charles

    GR;

    I think the Ford game changer would be the Grand C-Max as a hybrid or even better plug-in hybrid. Ford has announced that the US will get the new Grand C-Max. Now we just need to convince Ford it needs to be a hybrid.

    The Grand C-Max would not go head to head with the Prius. It would be in a class by its self (well almost). Room for six in three rows. Lots for space for stuff if the back seats are folded down.

    Competing with the Prius is very hard. The Prius is very efficient with both fuel and space. To get Prius type MPG, Ford would have to go with a Focus hybrid. The Focus hatchback may have more storage room, but less passenger space when compared to the Prius. Ford also has the problem in that the name is Ford Focus, not Toyota Prius. Ford’s newer cars may match or even beat Toyota in quality, but it is going to take a while for people to change their attitude towards Ford. Toyota has built up a lot of good will with their consumers over the last 35 years by providing quality cars. Ford has been building quality cars for only about 5 years.

    If you do not know what a Grand C-Max looks like, think of a Mazda 5.

  • Max Reid

    Despite recalls, Prius is able to gain 10% increase over Feb-2009.
    Civic-H has lost its market to Insight, may be it will be replaced
    with CR-Z which gives 57 MPG.
    Vue & Aura – probably GM sold the last units from stock.
    Sierra-H – No news about this, probably GM stopped selling it.
    Fusion – Overtakes Camry again.
    Highlander & RX400h – goes down badly.
    LS600h & GS450h – May be dropped this year.

    Time for GM to bring 2-mode version in Equinox & Malibu to compete
    with Escape & Fusion.

    Ford can apply Hybrid in C-Max and sell it.

  • Max Reid

    While Hybrids gets lot of popularity with monthly and annual sales figures.

    Flex-fuelled vehicle sales in Brazil have crossed the big 10-million mark and in USA have crossed 8 million mark.
    Thats 18 million +.

    Meanwhile CNG vehicles have crossed 11 million and LPG 14 million.
    I guess Hybrid sales have crossed 2 million mark.

  • Max Reid

    Prius sold 27,000 units in Japan. This month Toyota is offering discounts on their vehicles. Expect Prius sales to go up.

    As gas prices go up, so will be sales of Prius.

  • Yegor

    1. Of course Prius is #1 – it has 10 proven reliability history plus Toyota reliability.
    2. “Insight” is a Honda mistake – it is too small for North American market. If it were the size of Prius it would have taken half of Prius sales. Honda has to increase the size ASAP.
    3. Ford lacks reliability history – it makes Hybrids for 5 years only – consumers do no trust Ford enough.
    4. Ford makes the biggest potential Hybrid for North American market – Escape, unfortunately people do not trust Ford Hybrids yet. The truth is people with money do not buy small cars – on the other hand people without money cannot afford hybrids. Fusion Hybrid and Camry Hybrid are useless because trunk is totally separated from cabin. If Toyota would make RAV4 Hybrid and Honda would make CRV Hybrid – Hybrids sales would jump 200% in US. I had to buy Toyota Venza because there is no RAV4 Hybrid or CRV Hybrid.

  • ????

    Seriously, how long does it take to put these freakin’ numbers together. One month the dashboard is posted on the 5th, the other is the 25th?
    I understand it is a free service, but have some pride in providing information in a timely manner.

  • Smooth H-Ryder

    ^^^
    No kidding dude. I just check here towards the second half of the moth and its usually not there. Its funny somebody finally mentioned that.
    You can get sale numbers from msn or google news like on the 2nd or the 3rd. Thats what I would do.
    Has anybody also noticed that articles like ‘demographics of hybrid users’ and ‘fleet info’ and other, are like a decade old?

  • Bradley Berman

    Readers,
    Thanks for your feedback on the timing of the hybrid dashboard numbers. Here’s the problem: Toyota, Ford and Honda are reporting their numbers–but General Motors, Nissan and Mercedes did not report them for March. That leaves the dashboard lacking half its manufacturers. Through our partnership with R.L. Polk, we can get a complete set of numbers (via new car registrations), but that complete set will not be available until about six weeks after the close of the month. We are trying to source more timely numbers, but the delayed yet complete set is our likely direction. Feedback welcomed and encouraged.

    Bradley Berman, Editor
    HybridCars.com

  • Yegor

    Thank you for update. Yes, I look forward to these numbers and it is disappointing that they not available for so long time. :(
    I also would like that you would start to truck world sales numbers since Japan is doing so great in our days.

  • Phil Fournier

    Brad,

    I hope you are able to resolve the information scarcity and keep the Hybrid dashboard rolling. This information is very important to us in the vehicle service and repair industry. Though as an aftermarket service provider I won’t see these vehicles for a couple of years, anyway, as an educator it is very helpful to know what is selling. The american public becomes the ultimate arbitrator of technology by what they buy. Honda thought they had a huge winner with the Insight 2010 and so did I, but the public has had a different opinion. IMA technology is good, but not as good as Toyota’s dual electric motor strategy at fuel conservation and Honda needs to face up to it.

    Thanks for your good work with hybridcars.com .