January 2010 Dashboard: Hybrids Continue to Beat the Overall Market

Sales of hybrid gas-electric cars outperformed the overall market in January—showing an 11 percent gain compared to January 2009. The overall market was essentially flat compared to one year ago. The red down arrows all over this month’s Hybrid Market Dashboard result from a 31 percent dip in sales compared to December, when dealers were clearing inventory and offering year-end incentives. Post-holiday sales in January usually show a dip.

Prius continues to carry the weight for the whole hybrid market, representing about half of all hybrid sales. Just about every other model fell year-over-year. The rise in Prius sales—4.5 percent compared to a year ago—was enough to lift the entire market by the 11 percent. Low gas prices, around $2.75 as a national average, aren’t providing any boost for hybrid sales.

Even though the Toyota brand and the Prius’s image suffered blows in the past few weeks, we don’t expect January’s pattern to significantly change for most of this year. Consumers appear to be distinguishing between Toyota’s large recall for unintended acceleration and the company’s much smaller “software upgrade” to improve the Prius’s brake feel. More important for hybrid-oriented consumers, there’s still little competition for the Prius. The Ford Fusion Hybrid continues to rack up awards, including the Car of the Year at January’s Detroit auto show, but its success will probably mean stealing a few Camry Hybrid sales and higher take rates for the hybrid version of the Fusion, rather than any erasing of Prius’s lead.

Nonetheless, Ford maintained its position as the second biggest seller of hybrids in the US. The company is pursuing the industry’s most consistent and well-articulated strategy for higher fuel efficiency, starting with more efficient gas engines all the way to pure electric vehicles. That will pay off in the long run, but no new Ford hybrid introductions are planned for this year and production of current hybrid models are not expected to significantly increase.

Expect Best Ever Hybrid Incentives

There are signs that Toyota dealers have begun offering attractive incentives on the Prius in February. We have a suspicion that Prius is going to make headlines when February sales numbers show steady, if not increasing, sales—even coming at the heels of the recalls. Clearly, some deals are available now. Kelley Blue Book says Prius selling prices have dropped by $1,000 to $1,500.

Sales of Honda’s hybrids, including the Insight and Civic, remain lackluster, and word on the street shows that the two-seater Honda CR-Z, coming out soon, does not appeal enough either on the fuel economy or performance level to be a sensation. Maybe it’s time for Honda to lower the price of the Insight, so it stands a chance of fulfilling its promise as an affordable hybrid.

So, the pattern is set for the coming months—continued slow and steady growth in hybrids, outperforming the overall market. This pattern could be disrupted in two scenarios. If the Prius recall encounters any hitches, the hybrid market could take a dive along with Prius sales. On the other hand, if gas prices jump up as drivers take to the road in the spring and early summer—or if geo-political event cause a small spike in oil prices—hybrid sales could more quickly grow. Meanwhile, the most ardent green car early adopters are counting down the days to the November introduction of the Prius’s biggest threats for the green halo—the Chevy Volt and Nissan Leaf.

January 2010 Hybrid Car Sales Numbers

Hybrids sold in the US (January 2010): 17,157

US hybrid sales for January 2010

Model Units vs. last month vs. January 2009 CYTD vs. CYTD 2009
Prius 8,484 -27.9% 4.5% 8,484 4.5%
Insight 1,307 -20.3% n/a 1,307 n/a
HS 250h 1,247 -37.0% n/a 1,247 n/a
Fusion 1,091 -29.9% n/a 1,091 n/a
Altima 1,059 25.8% 64.4% 1,059 64.4%
RX450h 1,016 -36.4% -34.7% 1,016 -34.7%
Camry 867 -42.7% -24.0% 867 -24.0%
Escape 641 -38.1% -14.9% 641 -14.9%
Highlander 526 -48.9% -46.5% 526 -46.5%
Civic 253 -46.3% -76.5% 253 -76.5%
Tahoe 153 -52.0% -48.8% 153 -48.8%
Silverado 97 -62.3% n/a 97 n/a
Mariner 74 -38.8% -41.7% 74 -41.7%
Yukon 73 -59.4% -56.5% 73 -56.5%
Malibu 67 -49.2% -53.8% 67 -53.8%
Milan 61 -53.1% n/a 61 n/a
Escalade 52 -70.3% -60.6 52 -60.6%
GS450h 41 -24.1% 0.0% 41 0.0%
Aura 25 -84.3% -31.6% 25 31.6%
Vue 14 -92.5% -90.8% 14 -90.8%
LS600hL 9 -40.0% -72.7% 9 -72.7
All hybrids 17,157 -31.9% 11.1% 17,157 11.1%
All vehicles 698,346 -32.2% 6.31% 698,346 6.31%

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  • Surprised

    I am surprised to see Aura and Vue on the list as I thought Saturn was DOA. I guess there are some dealers still out there cleaning out stock?

    As far as Honda, at least they are trying to diversify even with their smaller and less expensive hybrid options. To borrow a VERY TIRED argument levied against all hybrid cars, you are very unlikely to make your money back on gasoline by buying a Prius over an Insight!!

  • Max Reid

    Prius leads with half the sales even with 21 models. After the recall issues are resolved, it may lead again in sales.

    LS600hL sold 9 units. A person with 105K can pay 5K more and buy a Tesla Roadster which is pure EV and could also save 1,000s of dollars in gas bill. So Toyota can phase it out when it comes to redesign time. GS450h can also be phased out.

    Insight is just replacing Civic, with 16 cu. ft. cargo space and a sleeker design and a 2K lesser price, Insight makes better sense than Civic Hybrid.

    CR-Z japan version with 4-seater and a high mileage will sell well there, but here the 2-seater version may flop again. All that Honda has to do is reduce price of Insight by 1K and launch 4-seater high mileage version of CR-Z here and all over the world.

    GM can drop the mild hybrids and apply their 2-Mode hybrid in Crossovers and Cars as well.

    Tesla has sold nearly 1000 vehicles in 2009 and we should start including them in the list as well.

    Note down guys : Chinese have sold 1.66 million vehicles in Jan-2010 and surely the oil prices will be going up.

  • Car sales follower

    Hi, I am checking some other sources about US car sales in January and found a big difference between your total car sales and and the one published by Wall Street Journal. Normally you have the same dat, but this time something is wrong, could you please recornfirm this information.


  • HK

    The all vehicles sales numbers are definitely wrong. Motor Intelligence has sales volume at 698,346. Automotive News at 698,990. Ward’s at 695,707. All of them reporting overall sales up ~6.5%.
    I don’t know but I find a market share of less than 2.5% for hybrids actually very disappointing.

  • reinaldo

    This is a great news for all of us. We all want an environment friendly car that will not depend much on diesel and I think hybrid cars is the best deal because it can both use electricity and fuel. We only need to put some alternator adapter plug to be sure that the car will function properly.

  • nelshaun

    I agree that it’s a great news. Hybrid cars existed way before diesel car and now it’s starting to conquer the market again. I believe that people are now concerned with our environment and save money from buying fuel. We only need to put some hella lights in this hybrid car to make it more safe.

  • steveb123

    I agree with this news, the reason behind increase in sales is only because of more fuel efficient power and it is fare cheaper than diesel and petrol. I wish in future more other new technology will come which is creating less pollution and less expensive. Now people like to give first preference to hybrid cars as compare to any other cheap cars. Now everyone likes to use fuel efficient car.

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  • BIll Cawthon

    Diesel engines were patented in 1892; the first true hybrid was probably the Loehner Porsche Mixte of 1901 (the date shown here at HybridCars is incorrect). The first mass-production diesel-powered car was the 1933 Citroën Rosalie; the first mass-production hybrid was the Toyota Prius in 1997.

  • tapra1

    representing about half of all hybrid sales. Just about every other model fell year-over-year. The rise in Prius sales—4.5 percent compared to a year ago—was enough to lift the entire market by the 11 percent. Top Web Hosting

  • Thoumus

    What are the sale number hybrid cars in 2011 and 2012 ?
    I think in 2011 the sale is less as compare to 2010 because of recession in finance market.

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  • Thoumus

    What are the sale number hybrid cars in 2011 and 2012 ?
    I think in 2011 the sale is less as compare to 2010 because of recession in finance market.

    Car Classifieds