Hybrid Leaders Pass Major Milestones

Toyota announced today that combined sales of Toyota and Lexus gas-electric vehicles in the United States topped the 1 million mark. This comes just one day after Ford announced that the 100,000th Ford hybrid SUV rolled off the assembly line of the company’s Kansas City assembly plant—and one month after Honda announced that it had sold more than 300,000 hybrids worldwide.

The sales milestones provide a stark picture of the relative size of the three major players in the hybrid market. Ford is celebrating reaching a level of hybrid sales that Toyota passed approximately five years ago. Toyota has produced about 10 times the number of hybrid units as Ford, and it has Honda beat by a multiple of about five.

Toyota announced the sale of 1 million hybrids globally in June 2007—about two years ahead of Honda’s global sales mark of 300,000 in February 2009.

The remaining players with hybrids on the market barely make a blip on the radar. General Motors has sold slightly more than 20,000 hybrids so far (despite having eight different hybrid models on the market); Nissan has not yet reached the 10,000 mark; and Chrysler hybrid sales number in the hundreds.

Competition Intensifies

Despite Toyota’s past dominance in the green car market, its lead is likely to dwindle in the coming years. Both Honda and Ford have aggressive sales targets for hot new hybrid models: the 2010 Honda Insight, which is priced to sell below $20,000, and Ford’s first hybrid sedan, the 2010 Ford Fusion Hybrid, which promises city fuel economy of 41 mpg. Ford is doubling its production of hybrid vehicles this year with the introduction of the Fusion Hybrid, and its sibling, the Mercury Milan Hybrid.

“As we celebrate our 100,000th hybrid, America’s interest in hybrid vehicles keeps growing, as does Ford’s commitment to advanced powertrain technologies that deliver greater fuel economy, lower emissions and help enhance our country’s energy security,” said Ford Chairman Bill Ford.

Nearly every major automaker will introduce a gas-electric vehicle in the next two to three years—and many are planning plug-in and alternative fuel models, including a growing number of clean diesel vehicles. General Motors continues to garner publicity for the Chevy Volt plug-in hybrid, due in late 2010, and recently announced that it hopes to introduce 26 new hybrids by 2014.

The competition may grow fierce, but Toyota apparently does not intend to lose its lead in hybrids. The third-generation Toyota Prius, which goes on sale in April, offers better performance and more features than its predecessor, while maintaining an average fuel economy of 50 mpg. The company is scheduled to introduce 10 new hybrids globally by 2012.

“For Toyota and Lexus, 2009 can easily be called ‘the year of the hybrid’ with three new offerings including our seventh hybrid model with the launch of the Lexus HS 250h,” said Jim Lentz, president of Toyota Motors Sales USA. “In addition to our growing hybrid presence over the next few years, expanded hybrid offerings from competitors will not only drive innovation and improvement for consumers, it will continue to help improve the environment and reduce our dependence on foreign oil.”

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  • Ross Nicholson

    All of these automobiles are at least twice as heavy as they need to be and none of them are anywhere close to being as aerodynamic as they need to be to carry America into the future. Open wheel wells ruin all of them, every last one, and none are boat-tailed, and most will lack aerodynamic belly pans.

    Aerodynamics is a science. Such things as wheel diameter and width have optimums scientifically and economically. “Customer preference” and automotive industry pandering of styling fads cannot be allowed to endanger America’s energy future any longer. We mandate miles per gallon (mpg), let Congress mandate maximum coefficients of drag (cd), so all manufacturers can work together on the same page for the benefit of society.

  • Old Man Crowder

    Re: lighter materials — I agree that lighter is better as long as we’re not sacrificing safety. Carbon fibre is often suggested, but producing it requires vast amounts of energy and it cannot be recycled. We’d be trading one set of environmental problems for another.

    Re: aerodynamics — How much does this really have on fuel consumption? Are we talking 10-15% or more or something like 2-3%?

  • Douglas Hvistendahl

    Aerodynamics – depends on how fast you are moving. Not much in cities, quite a bit on the highways.

    Take a look at the flow-aire design (search on “zero pollution motors” and follow up the links. Lightweight, uses triple compression & expansion instead of batteries. This PHAV has about the same performance as a PHEV, but the initial cost is roughly half as much. Efficiency is a bit lower.

  • Anonymous

    Several factors influence fuel consumption. The frontal area of the vehicle requires pushing the air aside. And then speed plays a role, the faster you go, the more force it takes to push that air out of the way. So below about 30 MPH drag plays a smaller role in fuel consumption, but as speed is increased, at some point it becomes the largest contributor to fuel consumption. A really slick car, like the Prius gets some of its 50 MPG due to its low drag.

  • Lost Prius to wife

    Old Man Crowder, since drag is not linear but exponential, the savings will vary according to speed. For two vehicles of the same weight and power, the vehicle with lower CD when compared to the higher CD vehicle will increase the savings the faster the two vehicles go. In other words, at slow speeds it may be only 2-3% while at much faster speeds it may be 10-15%. Very few cars have CDs lower than .30. Compare this to the original Honda Insight’s .24 and the second and third generation Prius’ .26 and .25. Although I think the new Honda Insight’s CD will be in the .25 ball park, the next closest CD that I can find is .283 for the Corvette coupe. I also believe some of the other new hybrids out soon will also come under the .30 CD mark.

  • rc55

    What science are you using for this statement? No open wheel wells? How do you plan on changing a flat tire??? Or turning the vehicle? And what the hell is Boat-tailed? We all know how efficient a boat is! So the vehicle is too heavy, yet you want to add more weight with a belly pan???? Wheel diameter and especially widths, also have an effect on vehicle stability and traction to the roadway, not just for optimums! If you want optimums, figure out how to use a sphere!
    Next time think before you speak, and don’t speak for me!!!

  • Shines

    This article is about almost 1.5 million hybrid sales. Way to go Ford, GM, Honda, Nissan,Toyota. This is a very positive step in the right direction.
    As far as materials, coefficients of drag, and other technologies, the manufacturers have to weigh these against manufacturing costs, current fuel costs, the economy, buyer incentives and even politics to decide which technologies to implement. The original Honda Insight is a perfect example. It got almost 70 MPG yet few people bought it because even though it was relatively efficient it was too small, uncomfortable and poorly styled. So even though we may desire fuel efficiency and function over form, people still want to look good as well as feel good about the cars they own.
    The best incentive I can think of to get more people considering greater fuel efficiency is fuel cost. Simple economics work best.