February Market Dashboard: Spitzer As Hybrid Promoter

in partnership with Polk

Hybrids Worldwide

"Top 5 global hybrid markets" based on vehicle registrations January – December 2007.

and "Top 5 US hybrid markets" based on vehicle registrations January – December 2007.

Now that Eliot Spitzer is back on the job market, he might consider a new stint as hybrid promotion spokesman. The story of Spitzer cleaning up corruption on Wall Street only to fall prey to his own character weaknesses resembles developments in the hybrid market, which remains flat based on the auto industry’s failure to deliver more hybrids just when car buyers are most ready to go green. Sales of hybrids in February 2008 showed no growth compared to January 2008, and declined by more than five percent compared to one year ago.

More importantly, the hybrid market continues to be composed of the vehicles introduced in the earliest period of hybrid growth: Toyota Prius, Honda Civic Hybrid, Ford Escape Hybrid, Toyota Highlander Hybrid, and Lexus RX 400h. Toyota has not yet redesigned the Prius, more than five years after the introduction of the second generation model. Toyota recently reiterated its commitment to offer hybrid offerings of all its models, but the timing for the company’s next hybrid introduction is still unknown. In the past year, Honda has reduced its number of hybrid offerings from three to one. Ford has long ago backed away from its hybrid pledges. And GM has rolled out impressive marketing campaigns for hybrids and other “gas-friendly” models, but February sales of the Saturn Vue Green Line and Saturn Aura Green Line were 30 units. (That’s no typo: three-oh units.)

Sales of luxury hybrid sedans from Lexus were negligible, and General Motors is not reporting sales for the Chevrolet Tahoe or GMC Yukon Hybrids or the Chevrolet Malibu Hybrid.

Nissan increased sales of the Altima Hybrid by nearly 12 percent compared to January and more than doubled sales compared to one year ago. Those sales amounted to only 529 units, because the Altima Hybrid is only available in eight states. With that growth, and sales of the Camry Hybrid on a solid ground, the availability of a high-mpg popular family sedan seems like a safe play.

The scandal—considering how eager automakers are to lift sales in a declining market—is the lack of new hybrids on the market. That left the market essentially flat in February and may represent a huge missed opportunity for March, considering that oil prices have climbed well past $100 per barrel and $4 gas is right around the corner. Eliot Spitzer is back on the job market. Carmakers looking for a spokesman to promote hybrids couldn’t find somebody with skills and qualifications better suited to that task.

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 final 2007 volumes.

Hybrids sold in the U.S. (February 2008): 22,441

US hybrid sales for February 2008

Model Units vs. 1/08 vs. 2/07
Altima 529 11.8% 156.8%
Prius 10,893 -4.3% -10.9%
Civic 1,808 3.6% -6.0%
Accord 42 -12.5% -86.5%
Camry 4,121 9.9% 23.7%
Highlander 1,938 -9.6% 2.4%
RX400h 1,148 -5.2% -8.1%
GS450h 77 20.3% -51.9%
LS600hL 112 6.7% n/a
Escape 1,509 16.4% 3.1%
Mariner 234 31.5% 0.9%
Vue 11 10.0% -98.5%
Aura 19 111.1% n/a
All hybrids 22,441 0.1% -5.5%
All vehicles 1,176,254 11.0% -6.3%

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

United States Sales by Make

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

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 91,417
2 Florida 19,283
3 New York 17,385
4 Texas 17,196
5 Washington 13,107
6 Illinois 13,094
7 Virginia 11,952
8 Pennsylvania 11,089
9 Massachusetts 9,982
10 New Jersey 9,645
11 Arizona 9,455
12 Maryland 8,976
13 North Carolina 8,641
14 Oregon 8,289
15 Colorado 7,707

*Registrations CYTD December 2007

States where hybrids are most popular

Rank State New Hybrids per 1000 Residents*
1 California 2.530
2 Oregon 2.277
3 Washington 2.085
4 Vermont 2.014
5 District of Columbia 1.900
6 New Hampshire 1.692
7 Connecticut 1.661
8 Colorado 1.652
9 Maryland 1.603
10 Arizona 1.592
11 Virginia 1.579
12 Massachusetts 1.560
13 Nevada 1.299
14 New Mexico 1.286
15 Rhode Island 1.255
US State Average 1.076

*Registrations CYTD December 2007

Metropolitan areas with the highest hybrid sales

Rank Metropolitan Area New Hybrids*
1 Los Angeles 40,634
2 San Francisco 27,292
3 New York 20,692
4 Washington, DC 12,744
5 Seattle 11,098
6 Chicago 10,611
7 Boston 10,438
8 Philadelphia 8,670
9 Sacramento, CA 7,871
10 Phoenix 7,829
11 San Diego 7,333
12 Portland, OR 6,868
13 Denver 6,763
14 Minneapolis-St. Paul 5,453
15 Dallas-Ft. Worth 5,361

*Registrations CYTD December 2007

Metropolitan areas where hybrids are most popular

Rank Metropolitan Area New Hybrids per 1000 Households*
1 Portland, OR 16.873
2 San Francisco, CA 11.585
3 Monterey, CA 9.286
4 Santa Barbara, CA 7.820
5 Los Angeles 7.339
6 San Diego 7.146
7 Charlottesvilla, VA 6.839
8 Seattle 6.521
9 Bend, OR 6.433
10 Sacramento 5.848
11 Washington, DC 5.658
12 Eugene, OR 5.334
13 Palm Springs, CA 5.023
14 Burlington, VT 4.832
15 Denver 4.779
  US Metro Area Average 2.366

*Registrations CYTD December 2007

Looking Ahead

The rise in gas prices will almost certainly produce significant gains in hybrids sales in March. Expect the market share for various models, and the carmakers, to remain unchanged, but the numbers should go way up. As stated above, there are no new hybrid model introductions to take full advantage of the shift toward efficiency, although we can expect small cars to be big. And the model which could really clean up—Honda’s new global hybrid, aimed at making hybrids affordable with a price tag probably below $20,000—is more than year away.


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  • Jeff

    There are two things going on right now that contribute to slow sales.

    1. Economy is a bit squirrelly due to all the ivy league blue bloods screwing up and thinking they know how to make money where there isn’t any.

    2. Toyota and every other car maker have been announcing that they will be introducing even more efficient cars soon. So why buy now when you can wait a few more months and get 10 or 20 more mpg?

    With all electric looking like the future for most commuter cars the auto market will start looking more like the electronics market. Wait a year and you will get more for your money as technology improves.

    So unless you need a new car now why buy. Last year was a bit different as Prius prices were taking a big drop and sub-prime loans were everywhere.

  • Old Man Crowder

    Spitzer would be perfect in those Prius ads we saw a few days back…

    “…At least he drives a Prius!”

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  • china women

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