January 2009 Dashboard: Hybrid Pickups Arrive

in partnership with Polk

The entire auto market continued to slide, bringing hybrid sales along with it. But there’s good news: General Motors began shipping full-hybrid pickup trucks, opening up the hybrid market to a new pool of buyers.

Hybrid Heatmap

In this month’s version, we take a look at sales of hybrids produced exclusively by domestic automakers: GM, Ford and Chrysler. With the emergence of hybrid pickup trucks, we wondered if buyers of domestic hybrids were coming from a different part of the country than the larger hybrid market. After adjusting the sales numbers based on population, we see that California remains a hotspot—but the Midwest is stronger while much of the Northeast (except for the DC area) shows less hybrid popularity.

Hybrid Heatmap

Analysis of January 2009 Sales Numbers

Hybrids Worldwide

"Top 5 global hybrid markets" based on vehicle registrations CYTD November 2008.

and "Top 5 US hybrid markets" based on vehicle registrations CYTD November 2008.

The beginning of 2009 was much like the end of 2008 for auto markets: showrooms stayed quiet, credit remained tight, and sales continued to slide. Overall, auto sales were down 38 percent compared with last January; brands like General Motors and Chrysler saw more severe declines as their volumes were cut in half. Although hybrids outperformed the market slightly, sales of hybrid models were still far below typical levels.

January hybrid sales fell an average of 31 percent from the previous year. Sales of the segment-leading Prius slid 29 percent, and models like the Escape Hybrid and Camry Hybrid plummeted, falling 42 percent and 70 percent, respectively. Remarkably, sales of the Lexus RX hybrid held up reasonably well: sales of the luxury crossover SUV were up 29 percent in January, making the RX the second highest selling model this month behind the Prius.

If there was good news in January, it was that hybrid powertrains finally penetrated the pickup segment: GM shipped seven Silverado Two-Mode Hybrids to its dealers this month. While a hulking full-sized pickup with a hybrid powertrain may be anathema to many of today’s hybrid owners, vehicles like the Two-Mode Silverado have the potential to attract new buyers to the hybrid market. In particular, drivers who need the hauling or towing capabilities of a big pickup but are concerned about fuel economy seem like good candidates for the gas-electric Silverado.

We’re not really sure how many pickup buyers fit this bill, or whether the Two-Mode Silverado’s $38,000 starting price will scare them off. But the fact remains that the Silverado expands the reach of hybrids beyond midsized sedans and crossovers into a new vehicle segment. Sales of large trucks may have slowed somewhat over the past year, but the top two selling vehicles in January were both pickups. That means a very large new pool of potential hybrid buyers for the future.

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 2008 volumes based on sales-to-date.

Hybrids sold in the US (January 2009): 15,441

US hybrid sales for January 2009

Model Units vs. last month vs. January 2008 CYTD vs. CYTD 2008
Prius 8,121 3.3% -28.6% 8,121 -28.6%
Camry 1,141 -39.6% -69.6% 1,141 -69.6%
Highlander 984 10.6% -54.1% 984 -54.1%
RX400h 1,556 6.4% 28.5% 1,556 28.5%
LS600hL 33 -34.0% -68.6% 33 n/a
GS450h 41 -19.6% -35.9% 41 -35.9%
Civic 1,076 3.9% -38.3% 1,076 -38.3%
Escape 753 -27.8% -41.9% 753 -41.9%
Mariner 127 19.8% -28.7% 127 -28.7%
Yukon 168 -62.0% n/a 168 n/a
Malibu 145 -68.1% n/a 145 n/a
Vue 153 54.7% 1,430.0% 153 1,430.0%
Tahoe 299 69.5% n/a 299 n/a
Aura 19 -44.1% 111.0% 19 -63.0%
Altima 644 -9.3% 36.2% 644 36.2%
Escalade 132 56.9% n/a 132 n/a
Aspen 33 -28.3% n/a 33 n/a
Durango 9 n/a n/a 9 n/a
Silverado 7 n/a n/a 7 n/a
All hybrids 15,441 12.7% -31.1% 15,441 -31.1%
All vehicles 656,881 26.6% -38.0% 656,881 -38.0%

*Aspen Hybrid sales numbers include sales for both Chrysler SUV hybrid models

U.S. hybrid sales for January 2009 by manufacturer and model

United States Sales by Make

U.S. hybrid market historical sales (1999 – 2008)

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 71,205
2 New York 16,294
3 Texas 15,281
4 Florida 15,212
5 Illinois 12,064
6 Virginia 9,720
7 Washington 9,605
8 Pennsylvania 9,510
9 New Jersey 8,909
10 Arizona 8,600
11 Massachusetts 8,526
12 Maryland 7,362
13 North Carolina 7,177
14 Ohio 6,968
15 Colorado 6,182

*Registrations CYTD November 2008

States where hybrids are most popular

Rank State New Hybrids per 1000 Residents*
1 California 1.97
2 District of Columbia 1.91
3 Oregon 1.56
4 Washington 1.53
5 Vermont 1.47
6 Connecticut 1.47
7 Arizona 1.45
8 New Hampshire 1.41
9 Massachusetts 1.33
10 Colorado 1.33
11 Maryland 1.31
12 Virginia 1.28
13 Nevada 1.21
14 Hawaii 1.14
15 Alaska 1.11
US State Average 0.94

*Registrations CYTD November 2008

Metropolitan areas with the highest hybrid sales

Rank Metropolitan Area New Hybrids*
1 Los Angeles 31,836
2 San Francisco 19,813
3 New York 19,674
4 Washington, DC 10,311
5 Chicago 9,647
6 Boston 8,798
7 Seattle 7,951
8 Philadelphia 7,683
9 Phoenix 7,256
10 San Diego 6,384
11 Sacramento 6,258
12 Denver 5,454
13 Minneapolis-St. Paul 5,201
14 Portland, OR 4,729
15 Dallas-Ft. Worth 4,729

*Registrations CYTD November 2008

Metropolitan areas where hybrids are most popular

Rank Metropolitan Area New Hybrids per 1000 Households*
1 Portland, OR 11.162
2 San Francisco 8.41
3 Monterrey, CA 6.85
4 Santa Barbara, CA 6.60
5 San Diego 6.22
6 Los Angeles 5.75
7 Charlottesville, VA 5.15
8 Seattle, WA 4.67
9 Sacramento, CA 4.65
10 Washington, DC 4.58
11 Phoenix 4.37
12 Palm Springs, CA 4.25
13 Eugene, OR 3.93
14 Helena, MT 3.91
15 Denver, CO 3.85
  US Metro Area Average 2.07

*Registrations CYTD November 2008

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  • Jeddy

    I’ve been watching gasoline and diesel prices surge in BC, Canada. What the heck else are folks wanting to buy other than hybrids — diesels?

    Let’s get on with the program…

    Hyrbids, diesel-electric hyrbids, hydrogen …

    Man, what does it take??

  • Lowell Hagele

    You list hybrid sales for January as..Hybrids sold in the US (January 2009): 17,697 in the article yet the totals in your table of January sales is 156,441. Which data is correct or am I missing something.

  • Boom Boom

    Whoah! GM makes a big splash on the market with 7 different hybrid models! It is just like their ad’s say, they’ve got more hybrids than anyone… except if you look at the fact that they sold less than Honda (one hybrid) or Ford (two hybrids). Nissan has one model that is a Camry Clone and they’re selling almost as many as GM. I guess all that talk hasn’t really produced much walk….

  • Bryce

    These are all vehicles they shipped. GM production was cut again meaning less got made. As you saw in the article, only 7 silverado hybrids were made and shipped for the month, with all 7 being sold. The Carpocalypse is killing sales, and production sadly. : (

    By the way, why were Chrysler products listed under GM. Just thought that was kinda weird.

    I can’t wait until the Insight and Fusions come out in the coming months. Should be very interesting.

  • GR

    I’m not sure whether to feel proud that CA has 7 cities where hybrids are in the top 15 for popularity, or to feel sad that the next two most populous states (TX and NY) have no cities on that list.

  • GR

    ps – Does anyone know which states provide incentives for buying hybrids vs which ones don’t?

  • perfectapproach

    I personally can’t wait to see what Honda does with the CR-Z. Not been much talk about it lately. But if they’re as dedicated to it as Chevy is to the Volt, odds are pretty good.

    I did read some bad news though. Honda cut development on a convertible version of the car. I hope they don’t cut funding to the rest of the car too. 🙁 I want a 2-door coupe that screams and sips gas for less than $20k! Is this too much to ask??

  • steved28

    BoomBoom, it’s even worse when you consider the Nissan is only sold in 8 states.

  • Boom Boom

    Good point, steve.

    GR, I don’t know of any states that provide an rebate/incentive for hybrids to the consumer.

  • Bill Cosworth

    Great truck.

    Would get one, this saves you much more money than a prius.

    In these lower millage areas is where its makes sence to get a hybird.

    When you get a prius vs a focus its a difference of like 20 dollars and when you add the cost of the prius and the saftey of the prius the focus makes more sence to buy.

    The Prius is the worst car in my opinion and a peice of junk.

  • Anonymous

    It takes profit out of the shareholders and auto executive’s pockets – that’s why it is not happening as fast as you wished. But it is only very costly for large OEMs, because of their huge overhead. And despite realizeing, that they have to best utilize these humangous resources, they rather let them idle and/ or lay them off with high retirement/ pension costs – insane!