Hybrid Car Sales, Led by Prius, Finish Strong in 2010

Toyota Prius

American consumers bought more hybrid gas-electric cars in December than any other month in 2010. Sales tallied to 28,592, which is a 13.6 percent increase in hybrid sales compared to Dec. 2009—and a whopping 37 percent increase from November sales.

The December jump in hybrid sales outpaced the overall growth in the U.S. auto market, which grew by 11.1 percent. For the year, the size of the American auto market also expanded by 11 percent—while hybrids fell by a little more than 5 percent. It’s important to note that most of the growth in the overall vehicle market came from light trucks (a category that includes pickups, vans and many SUVs). Light trucks rose by 21 percent while passenger cars grew by just 1 percent.

The hybrid market continues to be dominated by one vehicle: the Toyota Prius. In Dec. 2010, Toyota sold 15,639 Priuses, nearly a 33 percent increase from last December. This allowed Toyota to post a slight half-percent gain of U.S. annual Prius sales—coming in a year in which concerns about the safety of Toyota vehicles, specifically the “runaway” Prius, produced sensational negative headlines and production stoppages.

Perhaps most striking is that Prius sales were flat in 2010, when overall Toyota sales dropped by 5.5 percent last year. The Toyota Prius represented 8 percent of all Toyota vehicles sold in the U.S. in 2010.

In December, Prius returned to the best-seller list for passenger cars. When you exclude pick-up trucks and SUVs, the Prius was the eighth most popular vehicle in the U.S. in December. Other Toyota hybrids did not fare as well. The company sold 3.3 percent fewer hybrids in 2010. This provides a clue to why Toyota is eager to introduce an entire line of Prius vehicles, in an effort to brand much of its hybrid technology with the Prius badge.

Gas prices were on the rise in December, partly explaining the 33 percent month-over-month Prius sales increase. Unfortunately, no other hybrid model had a similar dramatic increase.

Later this week, HybridCars.com will post a full set of hybrid and diesel sales numbers—as well as the first 326 Chevy Volt and 19 Nissan LEAF purchases.


  • Yegor

    Thanks for the info!
    Looking forward for the full report.

  • Pierre

    I just looked at Toyota.com, there’s only 2010 Prius. Strange. Does that mean Toyota has ‘overstocked’ Prius for 2010?

    Any idea when the 2011 model will come out?

  • Michael Austin

    In December I took delivery of a 2010 Prius, because the cost was good combined with the influence of Toyota (world’s largest automotive) recall and their 2010 incentives. Too many cars + bad reputation + lower prices = December sales increase. I’m betting that Toyota’s problems, now given the light of day, will be big enough that they’ll want to pay attention. See this article I posted about magnetic (EMF) readings in the hybrids I tested (http://blueplanetalmanac.wordpress.com/2011/01/02/energy-use-vs-magnetic-fields-in-passenger-cars/)

  • Yegor

    Michael Austin,
    Thank you very, very much!!!
    I was wondering for a long time about Magnetic Fields in electric cars .
    It is good to now that Toyota did so well with the new Prius.

  • Anonymous

    that’s nice michael.

    isn’t this a bit of over promotion for your own site when you could have just mentioned prius has low emf compare to other cars without posting it 3 times and using sensationalist words like “toyota’s problems… will be big enough that they’ll want to pay attention.”?

  • Michael Austin`

    I think not. I don’t do what I do for money, and it’s my experience that full information about any situation or manufacturer is vastly preferable to sketchy, shot-from-the-hip, unsupported, emotional claims. Next.

  • Michael Austin

    And, P.S., Anonymous: Would you please clarify “posting it 3 times,” thanks.

  • Anonymous

    dear Michael

    your extra posts have been removed by the editor.

    ps. it’s not about you doing it for money or not. your post statements were misleading. a better way to approach it would have been state the facts then offer the link for those who are interested to read more.

  • Michael Austin

    O.K., Anonymous. What are the facts you wanted to see?

  • Al

    Runaway Prius? Last May 2010, Motor Trend tested a host of recalled Priuses and, despite deliberately trying to defeat the braking system, could not replicate the alleged tendency for 2010 Priuses to undergo brake failure. They concluded that such failures were due to driver error and were not the result of faulty electronics or mechanical systems.

  • Anonymous

    Michael Austin says:

    “O.K., Anonymous. What are the facts you wanted to see?”

    avoid misleading statements. you are not gaining any credibility by posting “I’m betting that Toyota’s problems, now given the light of day, will be big enough that they’ll want to pay attention. See this article I posted about magnetic (EMF) readings in the hybrids I tested” then state in the article there is no emf issues with the toyota hybrid.

  • Michael Austin

    O.K., Anonymous: I understand better what you wrote about for next time. I’m curmudgeonly about corporations because I’ve seen many of them not care about their customers or sustainability thousands of times.

    From my perspective, what I wrote was meant to convey that since that combination of conditions was occurring, I’ve now bet my purchasing dollars and family’s safety on Toyota’s renewed interest in the safety and market value of their cars.

  • lead generation

    Well what i notice in our street today are lots of bran new Hyundai. I do not know if they are hybrid but the quality of design for these cars is amazing.

  • John Faust

    What exactly the different of hybrid cars and a regular or traditional cars. I hear this news before but i do not know the advantage. Maybe helpful in my work as sales lead generation agent who frequently on travel.

  • Robert2

    Prius is a great car. My wife rides it every morning when she goes to work text

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  • RuffDraft

    So let me get this straight… In a list of consumer reports for a month where gas prices should have been the biggest concern for people buying an automobile, if the list is left as-is, the Prius doesn’t make the top 10, but if you remove the data points that you don’t like, the Prius is 8th? That’s a pretty weak argument, especially when you consider that their yearly sales dropped by ~5%. This very article proves how unpopular the Prius actually is. Meanwhile the top-selling vehicle in America continues to be the F150. Is it possible that most people just don’t WANT hybrid cars?

  • tapra1

    This allowed Toyota to post a slight half-percent gain of U.S. annual Prius sales—coming in a year in which concerns about the safety of Toyota vehicles.Tech Follow

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